February anniversary of the brutal murder of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya one year ago.

Also see:

http://copticcentre.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/statement-by-hg-bishop-angaelos-marking.html

http://davidalton.net/2016/01/27/christian-and-yazidi-murders-at-the-hands-of-isis-must-be-classed-as-genocide-peers-and-mps-urge-un-to-act/

 

Icon of the 21 Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya in February 2015

It is especially important that we mark the anniversary of the brutal murder of the 21 Coptic Christians in Libya a year ago, not only to keep them in our memory, but to remember and advocate for all those who continue to face persecution in the Middle East. What is happening to Christians and minorities in the region is nothing short of Genocide and we must not stand by and watch as whole communities  are eradicated. These 21 Coptic Christians who lost their lives are testimony to the strength of Faith and courage of many Christians around the world, but are also a reminder that we all have a role to play in safeguarding those suffering religious persecution and gross violations of their basic human rights.

Coptic martys

On February 12, 2015, ISIS – Daesh – released a report in their online magazine Dabiq showing photos of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians – migrant  workers – that they had kidnapped in the city of Sirte, in Libya, and whom they threatened to kill to “avenge the [alleged] kidnapping of Muslim women by the Egyptian Coptic Church”.The men, who came from different villages in Egypt, 13 of them from Al-Our, Minya Governorate,  had been kidnapped in Sirte in two separate attacks on December 27, 2014, and in January 2015.

coptic martyrs 2

On February 15, a five-minute video was published, showing the beheading of the captives on a beach along the southern Mediterranean coast. A caption in the video called the captives the “people of the cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian Church” In the video one of the killers in camouflage declared in North-American English:

“Oh people, recently you’ve seen us on the hills of Al-Sham [Greater Syria] and on Dabiq’s Plain, chopping off the heads that had been carrying the cross delusion for a long time…” 

After beheading the hostages, the speaker  finally declares “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission,” pointing his knife toward the sea. As in other ISIL videos, the captives wore orange jumpsuits, intended as a reference to the attire of  Guantanamo prisoners.The leader of the squad performing the killings was identified as a Libyan expatriate who calls himslef Al Qaqa’a Ben Omro.

President Sisi of Egypt  announced a seven-day period of national mourning  and in a televised address, al-Sisi declared his country reserved the right for retaliation.

On February 21, 2015 Pope Tawadros III, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church announced that the 21 murdered Copts would be commemorated as martyr saints, on the 8th Amshir of the Coptic calendar, which is February 15 of the Gregorian calendar.

After the beheadings, the Coptic church released their names, and it was later learned that the 21st martyr was named Mathew Ayairga and that he was from Ghana. Originally a non-Christian, he saw the immense faith of the others, and when the terrorists asked him if he rejected Jesus, he reportedly said, “Their God is my God”, knowing that he, too, would be killed.

Matthew-Ayairga-beheaded-Ghana-ISIS (1)

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On Wednesday February 10th, 2016, Ash wednesday, a Service of Commemoration to mark the killing of the 21 Christian Coptic Martyrs was held in the Crypt chapel of Our Lady Undercroft, in the Houses of Parliament. The Service was led by His Grace, Bishop Angaelos, and the Service Booklet contained messages from HRH the Prince of Wales , the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister.

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Copts pray in the burnt husk of a church

Meanwhile, Egyptian Christians have been rebuilding their churches which were desecrated in an orgy of violence.

 

ny-copts-protest_04

Egypt’s Copts are under daily attack

Finding Answers To The Refugee Crisis

refugees

http://www.geopolitical-info.com/en/

Europe mulls unconventional answers to refugee crisis – an article for Geopolitical-info February 2016

 

Lord Alton

 

syrian refugees

Syrian refugees

 

Horrific photographs of starving children from the besieged Syrian town of Madaya are the latest defining images from the tormented country. Conflict there has claimed the lives of over 260,000 people – 55,000 in 2015 alone. However, peace in Syria is unlikely in the near future. The deluge of people flowing out of that country – and many other troubled regions – will not abate soon. As the refugee crisis intensifies, Europe will have to consider ambitious, comprehensive solutions.

 

 

Unsurprisingly, the vicious and seemingly unending violence in Syria has driven more than four million refugees out of the country. At least an additional 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria’s borders, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The head of UNHCR, Antonio Guterres, calls this “the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation.”

 

This exodus, of biblical proportions, has sparked frenzied debate in Europe about how to deal with the new arrivals. But the overwhelming majority of Syria’s refugees are not in Europe at all. Over 2.5 million are in Turkey (home to 45 percent); 1.07 million in Lebanon; 635,000 in Jordan; 245,000 in Iraq; 118,000 in Egypt; and 27,000 elsewhere in North Africa.

 

Diverse problem

Increasingly, other countries in the region are not seen as final destinations. In December 2015, a symbolic milestone was crossed when the International Organization for Migration announced that more than a million migrants had crossed into Europe. By the end of last October, Germany had received the lion’s share of new asylum applications – more than 362,000.

 

According to the European Union, just one fifth of migrants registering for asylum in Europe are actually from Syria. Last year 17,000 claims were made by Albanians, whose country is not ravaged by conflict and war. Some 27,000 claims were lodged by Afghans, whose country is disfigured by Taliban violence.

 

Every month, around 5,000 people leave Eritrea. More than 350,000 have emigrated so far, around 10 percent of the country’s population. The United Nations says that, during their journeys: “Thousands of Eritreans are killed at sea while attempting to reach European shores. The practice of kidnapping migrating individuals, who are released on ransom after enduring horrible torture or killed, targets Eritreans in particular.”

 

In Sudan, there are an estimated 3.1 million internally displaced persons: 2.5 million in Darfur and more than half a million in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Why, when many of his population are trying to escape to Europe, is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, not brought to justice?

 

Global scale

Whatever strategy Europe comes up with must hold aggressors to account and address the provision of safe havens and how to enable people to have better lives in their countries of origin. All over the world, dictators have created the circumstances and environment in which warlords, tribal factions and extremists have emerged, feeding off a mixture of sectarianism, poverty and deep despair – all drivers for migration.

 

Worldwide, 55 million people are refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons, with a further 60 million forcibly displaced. In Asia, there are nine million refugees and 15 million internally displaced people. Afghanistan generates the second largest number of refugees worldwide, while Myanmar is awash with refugees, including thousands of Rohingyas, cast adrift in rickety boats in the Andaman Sea.

 

Add to the mix climate change and the scarcity of resources such as water and it is obvious that this is a global problem – one which is not going away. Some 1.5 billion of the world’s people live in countries that are fragile and affected by conflict. They can’t all be found homes and work in Germany or the UK.

 

Strategic imperative

However, the immediate priority must be to galvanize a coherent international strategy in Syria. It is obvious that only by resolving the conflict there will we see an end to the hemorrhaging of that country’s population. Unfortunately, that does not look likely to happen any time soon. Tentative peace talks are threatened by the standoff between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, as well as the competing interests of Turkey, Russia and the United States.

 

If people believe that the Syrian war will never end they will continue to despair and increasingly think of a life away from their ancestral homes. The more people that actually make it to Europe the more of a magnet the continent will become for those festering in makeshift camps or in tiny squats elsewhere – especially when they are denied the right to work or to escape grinding poverty. Instead of hoping to return they will increasingly hope to move away permanently.

 

Forcing people to sign a covenant not to work in return for residency (as in Lebanon) may protect the jobs of local people, but it does nothing for the self-respect of the refugees. And who can survive – or feed their children – without money? Who can then afford medical services, in countries like Jordan, when access to free healthcare is lost? What do you do about your children when hundreds of thousands of them are denied an education? It is imperative to help host countries address these questions.

 

Sharing the burden

Would it not also be wiser and fairer to explain that the streets of London, Paris, Berlin and Rome are not paved with gold and that television reports of European leaders putting out the welcome mat – accompanied by reception committees, promises of homes, jobs and a secure future – are deeply misleading?

 

How much better it would be to create some internationally protected safe havens within the region and deal with asylum applications in those places – cutting the umbilical cord, the necessity to travel to Europe and severing the lucrative and extortionate demands made by people smugglers.

 

Moreover, not all destinations have to be Europe. Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan have too few people, with population densities frequently less than 10 people per square kilometer. That compares with 200 and 300 people per square kilometer in Europe. The Gulf States, too, should be doing more.

 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has told European countries that they “must shoulder their fair share in responding to the refugee crisis, at home and abroad” and that “to deny that responsibility is to threaten the very building blocks of the humanitarian system Europe worked so hard to build.” However, Europe’s cannot solve these problems by itself.

 

We know our history – how, during the last three decades of the 19th century a third of Europe’s population migrated to the Americas – some fleeing pogroms, others famine, and still others religious persecution or war. Many simply wanted a better life.

 

Building safe havens

In post-war Europe the enlightened Marshall Plan enabled Europe to be rebuilt from the ashes. In the ruined cities of Iraq, Syria and Libya, something similar must be done. Internationally protected safe havens should be created, where fleeing migrants might rebuild their lives and be given some sense of hope.

 

Small city states – a new Carthage in North Africa, perhaps modeled on the prosperous and diverse city state of Singapore – with opportunities for work and prosperity would also be the perfect answer Daesh’s Islamic caliphate. Safe havens like those created in the 18th century in Freetown, Sierra Leone, or the one created by the U.S. for freed slaves in Liberia, would offer an alternative to destitution, exploitation, years in refugee camps or death at sea.

 

A North African safe haven might be linked to the admirable idea of turning the Sahara into a massive solar energy producing resource – a huge opportunity for job creation which would also combat carbon emissions and reduce reliance on despots who sell us their oil and gas.

 

Yes, it is “ambitious” to think like this. But if we ask ourselves what must it be like to be at the mercy of Daesh or to be living in the shadow of tyranny and unspeakable violence, wouldn’t we also want to try and get our loved ones to safety or want to make a better life?

 

An effective strategy for tackling this crisis will require a Europe, the U.S. and Japan to make it harder for Africa to prosper by propping up murderous, corrupt dictators with our misguided aid and arms sales; dumping our subsidized agricultural surplus on their markets; and laundering money stolen by their elites.

 

Considering history

We also need to balance the work we have done in using admirable development programs to train women, when boys and men also need economically useful skills and a sense of purpose, too. They make up the greatest share of mass migration. In countries where economics drives migration, there should be public information campaigns, highlighting the fate of too many of those who have been lured into embarking on their perilous journeys.

 

In reflecting on our own history and the richness that can come with diversity, we must also consider that if we fail to grapple with the root causes of this global crisis it will fuel the growth of Europe’s far right.

 

Our history tells us many things – not least that the innocent always suffer the most when we crack the thin veneer that separates civilization from anarchy. Only a generation ago, Europe itself was riven by horrific war, driven by racist xenophobia, secular ideology, and – in the smoldering ovens of the concentration camps – a total indifference to the human costs.

 

Think for a moment of the plight of children as families tried to flee those events. Kindertransport (a series of rescue efforts that brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to the UK from Nazi Germany) was one notable response. In 2014 some 13,026 unaccompanied refugee children arrived in Italy. The charity, Save the Children, reports that 3,707 disappeared after arriving.

 

Disappeared into what? Human trafficking, exploitation, servitude, criminal gangs, terrorist groups? Under international law, governments have a special duty to children and unaccompanied minors.

 

Pass the parcel

International law also imposes a duty to protect and support those who are subject to genocide. As Hillary Clinton recently conceded, what is now underway against Christian and Yazidi minorities in Syria and Iraq is genocide. Because they have stayed outside the refugee camps, where Daesh sympathizers would target them further, many of those who have fled this genocide do not receive help from the UNHCR.

 

If anyone is going to be given priority in any orderly resettlement program, surely it should be those who are without parents to protect them or those minorities subject to genocide. We may not – and cannot – help everyone. But this must not become an excuse for not helping anyone.

 

Imagine what it is like to be camped in “the jungle” refugee camp at Calais – a former landfill site, now muddy and cold. It is “home” to 6,000 people desperate to come to the UK. Simply erecting more high wire fences or leaving people to fester in these hell holes is no solution. There is also an inextricable link with our long-term security. Unless we find solutions for people festering in places like the Calais jungle they will be radicalized, becoming tomorrow’s Paris bombers and Daesh recruits.

 

In 1888 a children’s parlor game was invented. It was called “pass the parcel.” A lighted candle was passed along a row of people. The first recipient says, “Jack’s alive and likely to live. If he dies in your hand, you’ve a forfeit to give.” Our response to the refugee crisis has increasingly become like a bad-tempered game of pass the parcel – with countries hoping that their neighbor will have to bear the brunt. But as nations now argue about who will have to pay the forfeit, we need to remember that we hold vulnerable lives in our hands. That is why we must develop an international strategy that is thoughtful, generous and humane.

 

south sudanese refugees

South Sudanese Refugees

 

Refugees trapped at the Turkish border. House of Lords debate Genocide against Christians and Yazidis; Vote in the European Parliament; UN Report points to genocide. Council of Europe resolution. Presidential Candidates say Christians and Yazidis subject to genocide. U.S.Senate Resolution on genocide. House of Commons Motion, January 2016 and other reports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 8 February 2016.

 

Refugees: Unaccompanied Children

Question

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, following the statement last week by Brian Donald, the head of Europol, that 10,000 children had disappeared and an entire criminal infrastructure dedicated to exploiting migrants had been established, will the Minister tell the House what representations we have made to

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Europol and what discussions we are having with it about tackling this? Also, given that the 100,000 people now massing at Oncupinar, on the Turkish border with the Aleppo province, are facing an aerial bombardment campaign and the borders are closed to them—many of those refugees will be children—what action are the Government taking to ask that those borders be opened to allow the refugees safe passage across?

Lord Bates: The noble Lord is absolutely right to focus on this. Europol estimates that some 90% of people who arrive at Calais have been trafficked by criminal gangs. That is why the Prime Minister announced that we are setting up the Organised Immigration Crime Task Force, and there have been some early successes, although we need to work much harder on that. That is also why Kevin Hyland—I know the noble Lord knows him and respects his work—is looking at those issues. On the situation in Turkey, that is why we have announced a further £275 million as part of the EU-Turkey agreement, to provide aid to that southern border.

 

Syria

Statement

6.06 pm

6.25 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, within the past half hour a Yazidi woman gave evidence here in the House about the plight of the minorities in the region. The Minister will know that the European

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Parliament passed a resolution last week declaring these events to be genocide. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has done the same. What effort was made at the conference to prioritise the needs of groups such as the Yazidis, the Christians, the Shabaks and others who have suffered this genocide? Although everyone has suffered in this conflict, these people are peculiarly and specifically targeted because of their ethnicity or religion. What is being done to assist them?

Will the Minister return to the question that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, put to her about events in the province of Aleppo today? Around 100,000 people are amassed on the border with Turkey. Because of the aerial bombardment by the Russians, these people’s lives are in the balance, but they are not being allowed over the border. What are we doing to persuade Turkey to open the border to give safe refuge to those people?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, on the question of the minority groups within Syria, there have been horrific attacks by violent extremists on Christians and other religious minorities within Syria. As the noble Lord is aware, all our UK-funded humanitarian assistance is distributed on the basis of need alone, to ensure that civilians are not discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion or ethnicity. We prioritise reaching the most vulnerable across Syria, and that includes all groups. Of course, it is a challenging environment; these are incredibly complex, difficult areas to navigate, but I take the noble Lord’s point. Of course, where we can, we will work closely with the NGOs on the ground to get aid to as many people as possible.

The noble Lord mentioned the latest indications about the numbers of people being displaced from Aleppo. We know that many of them are sheltering in the border area, with more people on the move. We are exploring all options on how we can ensure that their humanitarian needs are met.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that with Daesh we are seeing genocide. I know that the word has to be clearly defined, but the sooner that is recognised and settled, the better.

————

Details of today’s vote in the European Parliament: Thursday February 2nd 2016: 

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160129IPR11938/MEPs-call-for-urgent-action-to-protect-religious-minorities-against-ISISMEPs call for urgent action to protect religious minorities against ISIS
Plenary Session Press release – External relations − 04-02-2016 – 12:53

MEPs urge the international community to take urgent action to counter the systematic mass murder of religious minorities by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Daesh, in a resolution voted on Thursday. The text wraps up a 20 January debate with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, in which many MEPs called for measures to protect all religious and minority groups against ISIS attacks.

MEPs reiterate their strong condemnation of ISIS/Daesh and its egregious human rights abuses, deliberately targeting Christians, Yazidis and other minorities who do not agree with their interpretation of Islam. These violations amount to “genocide” according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), they add.

The resolution, passed by show of hands, calls on the EU to establish a permanent Special Representative for Freedom of Religion and Belief and urges all countries in the international community to prevent genocide within their territory. All EU member states should update their legal and jurisdictional systems in order to prevent their nationals and citizens travelling to join ISIS/Daesh and other terrorist organisations and also ensure that, should they do so, they face criminal court proceedings as soon as possible, adds the text.
Also see:

February 4th 2016: Article on Genocide:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/issues/february-5th-2016/we-cannot-ignore-this-genocide/

 

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Subject: Last Night’s Debate on Genocide against Christians and Yazidis

 

Last night (February 3rd) the House of Lords debated an amendment which would require consideration to be given  to declaring events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide and to prioritise asylum arrangements for those who have been affected.

The all-party amendment received support from all sides of the House – including Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Welsh Nationalist and Independent Peers.

At the conclusion of the debate (see below) the Home Office Minister, Lord Bates, agreed to give the proposal further consideration. The movers have indicated that if agreement cannot be reached they will call a vote at the next stage. If successful the House of Commons would then be given a vote.

Please draw this to the attention of those who are concerned about the plight of minorities such as Yazidis and Christians.

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Amendment 234A

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

234A: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide

(1) A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is,

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1888

in the place from which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the United Kingdom.

(2) The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be determined by a Justice of the Supreme Court after consideration of the available facts.

(3) Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at British missions overseas.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in moving the amendment, I thank those noble Lords, from all sides of your Lordships’ House, who encouraged me to table it, and especially the co-signatories, my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The amendment provides a presumption that a person will be granted asylum when a judge of the Supreme Court has determined that a group to which that person belongs is, in the place from which that person originates, subject to genocide. The presumption will operate in the UK but, in addition, applicants would be able to apply at British consular posts overseas. Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as follows:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

Just one week ago, in Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution condemning the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide. The resolution, “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq”, states that ISIS,

“has perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law”.

The resolution unequivocally states that the actions that ISIS has committed are genocide, and was passed by 117 votes for and just one against. While we have been considering Day 4 of the Committee stage of this Bill, the European Parliament has been debating and will, tomorrow, vote on a similar resolution to that of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, identifying the plight of minorities such as Yazidis and Christians as genocide. This is a view also shared by 75 Members of your Lordships’ House and another place, who wrote to the Prime Minister just before Christmas urging her Majesty’s Government to declare events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide. In that December letter to the Prime Minister, the signatories said:

“There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Daesh falls within that definition”.

Signatories include the former chief of staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and the former head of MI5, the noble Lord, Lord Evans. The letter urges

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the British Government to seek agreement at the United Nations that we should name things for what they are. The letter insisted:

“This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated”.

The first is that those responsible would one day face a day of judicial reckoning, and the second is that it would require the 147 states who have signed the convention to step up to the plate and,

“face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators”.

There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. The caliphate has made public statements taking credit for the mass murder of Christians and expressing its intent to eliminate these minority communities and other groups, such as homosexuals, from its territory.

The Government response thus far seeks to avoid the duty set out in the convention stating:

“It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies”.

This is a frustrating and circular argument. Which international courts and judges should decide, on the basis of what process and in considering what evidence? What steps are the Government actually taking to ensure that those courts do indeed urgently consider the matter and reach a conclusion? On 16 December in Parliamentary Answer HL4327, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns said:

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yazidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

As for referring this matter to the International Criminal court she told me:

“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.—[Official Report, 16/12/15; col. 2146.]

If no one is willing to name this for what it is or to take this forward then the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing and is an insult to the intention of the original drafters and ratifiers as “never again” inevitably repeats itself over and over again.

Meanwhile, people are being ruthlessly targeted, and so is their culture and history. Last week, we learned that ISIS has obliterated Mosul’s ancient, stone-walled monastery of St Elijah, dating from the sixth century, where monks had etched “chi rho”, the first Greek letters of the word “Kristos”. This attempt to eradicate memory has been accompanied by the obliteration of those whose beliefs do not comply with theirs. Last year, 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabour river valley were kidnapped and jihadi websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid. Last August, the ancient Saint Eliane monastery

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in central Syria, which was founded more than 1,500 years ago, was destroyed by ISIS and dozens of Syriac Christians were abducted. Last year, a UN report said that ISIS continues,

“to deliberately and wantonly loot and destroy places of religious and cultural significance … which ISIS considers as un-Islamic. Generally, these sites are looted before being destroyed”.

Along with the Yazidi community, Christians have been told to convert or die. Children have been seized, propagandised and indoctrinated with jihadist ideology. That UN report warns that the situation continues to deteriorate, saying:

“UNAMI/OHCHR continues to have grave concerns for the welfare and safety of those held in ISIL captivity”.

The United Nations report states that that ISIS is holding 3,500 slaves hostage, mainly women and children. It said that ISIS has committed acts that,

“amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide”,

against minority groups, and that ISIS’s “systematic and widespread violence”, including beheadings, shootings and burnings, was “staggering”. Mass graves honeycomb part of the region. In a recent Parliamentary Answer HL4065, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, told me:

“We are aware of reports that mass graves have been discovered … at least one of which was allegedly booby trapped by Daesh”.

Murder is accompanied by other horrors. An estimated 5,000 young Yazidi women and girls have been abducted by ISIS, suffering horrific and prolonged sexual abuse. They were imprisoned for months on end, beaten, burnt and exposed to daily rape and torture. Horrifyingly, some of those victims were as young as nine. Sadly, some girls have taken their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the horrors of captivity.

10 pm

A few weeks ago I chaired a meeting here that was attended by the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. At a meeting organised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, a former Yazidi MP, speaking here, said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide and why we had remained silent. Hillary Clinton says that although she was reluctant to use the term “genocide” a few months ago to describe the IS atrocities, there is now “enough evidence” for her to use that word to denounce the murders of religious minorities by the jihadi group. Mrs Clinton said:

“What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS”.

The amendment is designed to focus the debate, rouse our consciences and provide some practical help. I heard yesterday from Assyrian Christians who had been told that it may take up to six years to process their asylum applications. Many Christian refugees in Lebanon are not even registered with UNHCR, too fearful even to go into the camps. In the context of continuing threats to their security, impoverishment, lack of access to work or schooling and no hope of a home, these delays are undoubtedly contributing to

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1891

the decision of many to undertake the hazardous journeys that we have been discussing during our proceedings, and undoubtedly many more will follow in their footsteps. Given that the Weidenfeld Fund, Mercury One and Operation Safe Havens are able to process applications and do the necessary security clearances—to a higher standard than UNHCR—in a matter of weeks, such delays are completely unacceptable. The late Lord Weidenfeld’s decision to create a special fund to assist Syrian Christians should inspire us all to do more. Although the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said in a Parliamentary Answer to me only yesterday:

“We recognise the plight faced by vulnerable women and girls in the region, and particularly Yazidi women who have escaped following enslavement by ISIS”,

and although the Government detail the significant sums of money that they provide for humanitarian relief, the reality is that Yazidis and Assyrian Christians have simply not been prioritised.

I urge the Government to collect the evidence—the names; the dates; the photographs of atrocities; the numbers killed, tortured, abducted or sold into sexual slavery; the accounts of forced conversions; the churches, shrines and manuscripts destroyed—and to trigger the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and to name this for what it is. Words matter. History proves that once the word “genocide” is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities. The Khmer Rouge prosecution continues and includes charges of genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese people, so there are precedents.

The amendment would ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to examine the evidence and make a determination. It would provide a process and duty to act. It would then ensure that victims of genocide were given priority in asylum applications. This is not about numbers, nor about those who threaten the security and ideals for which this country stands. Many suffer, but this is about those who have been singled out and our duty under the genocide convention to protect them. I commend the amendment to the Committee, and I beg to move.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I am a signatory. Last week, my noble friend Lord Alton and I presided over a hearing here in Parliament, where we heard graphic accounts of genocide and crimes against humanity from Yazidis and Christians from Syria and Iraq. Their first- hand testimonies were accompanied by supporting statements from relief organisations and charities working with these beleaguered communities, including Canon Andrew White, the courageous Anglican vicar of Baghdad.

Some 100 years after the Armenian genocide, these contemporary events are a continuation of a systematic campaign of annihilation which was planned by one caliphate, abolished in 1924 by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey but continued by another caliphate under the guise of the Islamic State—Daesh—today. Mass graves, beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, lootings and confiscation of property, are, sadly, nothing new. Nor is our failure to respond adequately to acutely vulnerable minorities.

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1892

This amendment is not about the misplaced free-for-all mistakenly promoted by Germany and now being urgently reassessed: nor is it about quotas or the unseemly bidding war about how many people any particular country has taken. Instead, the amendment focuses on a particularly vulnerable group of people now being subjected to genocide and argues that their asylum claims should be prioritised. Our first priority should always be those who have been singled out because of their religion, ethnicity or race. Although many people have been caught up in this suffering, we have particular obligations, as my noble friend highlighted, under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, to these minority groups. We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to the United Kingdom and that, unlike for other categories of people, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.

In November I and my noble friend wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to give priority to the most vulnerable—these minorities and children. We welcomed his decision to take vulnerable groups from holding countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, but we also pointed out that many of those fleeing from genocide have been too frightened to enter the camps and were living in informal settings, often without any help being given by UN agencies. In December, I was also a signatory to the letter sent to the Prime Minister—which my noble friend referred to—signed by 75 parliamentarians from both Houses and all sides, urging Her Majesty’s Government to name this genocide for what it is. So far, HMG have failed to do so—but, last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared that the treatment of Christians and Yazidis is indeed genocide.

Our colleagues in the House of Commons have been equally clear. I share with the House the wording of the all-party Motion tabled last week by a group of MPs in another place, which stated that,

“this House is appalled by the beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, burnings, other murders, torture, rape and extensive violence being perpetrated by Daesh or IS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq on the basis of religion and ethnicity; observes that this disgusting behaviour clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; notes the recent report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq,

Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq

, which concludes that Daesh is holding approximately 3,500 slaves, mostly women and children in Iraq, primarily from the Yazidi community, and describes Daesh’s systematic and widespread violence as staggering, concluding that these acts amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide; and calls on the Government to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that the provisions of the Convention can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented”.

We should commend our colleagues, such as Mrs Fiona Bruce MP, the chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, who tabled that Motion, and we should give legislative force to an appropriate response to those who are suffering so grievously. This is urgent, as Christianity and ancient religions such as Yazidism are being wiped out in the Middle East.

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Last week’s hearing took place on Holocaust Memorial Day. Among those who participated was Major General Tim Cross. He has said:

“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”.

He also pointed to the irony that while we are neglecting our duty to protect these minorities we have been opening the door to others who may threaten the very fabric of our society.

Major General Cross quoted the Lebanese Prime Minister, who told David Cameron that he believed that for every 1,000 migrants entering Europe illegally there are at least two extremists—inner-core jihadis—which means that around 16,000 IS fighters have probably entered Europe over the last year or so. While we have been doing this, we have failed to protect those to whom we have a specific duty under international law. Major General Cross said:

“Our dilemma is how we separate ‘values’ and ‘interests’”.

This amendment offers us the opportunity to uphold our values, especially our belief in the rule of law, while also protecting our interests.

If we are not prepared to respond to the victims of genocide, we must seriously ask whether we should remove our signature from the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide. What is the point of being a signatory if we are not prepared to accept the obligation—to see, to judge and to act? If we do not take such obligations seriously, as the amendment urges us to do, it fundamentally undermines that convention.

To remind noble Lords of what our obligations are, the convention makes it clear that genocide is not a random killing of individuals but a systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be,

“national, ethnical, racial or religious”.

The treaty identifies acts committed with intent to destroy that group,

“in whole or in part”.

The convention also covers within the term “genocide” a range of other acts already highlighted by my noble friend.

In short, international law is clear and undeniably covers the many horrors unleashed by ISIL/Daesh in the Middle East—and, I may point out, by Islamist extremists in other countries, including several African states such as northern Nigeria and Sudan, both of which I have visited in the last two months and where I saw comparable horrors and atrocities perpetrated.

If an international law, defined by treaty, is being flouted, and if hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are entitled to rely on the protection of that law are being killed, and millions are being driven from their homes, it is absolutely incumbent on the signatories to that treaty to take action to ensure that it is enforced. Sadly, however, to date the issue has not been high on the agenda of the leaders of more than 100 nations that are signatories to that convention.

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The convention is specific. The signatory nations may honour their commitments either by acting alone or by calling on the United Nations to prevent and punish genocide. That provision is hugely important in sending a clear message to the perpetrators of these dreadful acts: it warns them that they will be punished. So how can officials argue and give ambiguous replies that we can do nothing until others act? From the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders after the Second World War to the more recent trials for genocide perpetrated in Rwanda and Bosnia, a very clear message should go out to all those involved in these evil movements of genocide. The message should be: the international community will, sooner or later, come for you. You will be found, you will be captured, you will be tried in accordance with the convention and you will be punished proportionately to your offence. And, as this amendment insists most importantly, we will care for those whom you target in these unspeakable ways.

I urge our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to utter that one word, “genocide”. By using it in relation to the carnage befalling the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East, Her Majesty’s Government would be sending a clear message to ISIS and other groups that there will be a reckoning for their despicable actions.

In conclusion, Britain punches far above its weight in world diplomacy and international relations. We must ask our Government to have the courage to speak the right word to the international community and to follow the word with appropriate deeds. This amendment is an opportunity for us to do just that. At the very minimum, I hope that the Minister will undertake to go back to the Home Secretary and other ministerial colleagues and weigh these arguments with great care between now and Report.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in any of the proceedings on this legislation. Quarter past 10 at night in the middle of the week seems, perhaps, not the best moment to set forth on this matter. However, I am ashamed to say that until I was briefed by a friend, Mr Graham Hutton, chairman of the Aid to the Church in Need, about the position of Christians in Syria and Iraq, I was wholly ignorant of the extent of the atrocities that are occurring.

10.15 pm

I do not wish to detain the House by repeating examples that have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Both of them are held in the highest regard in this House but, if I may say so, particularly the noble Baroness, who seems to put herself in harm’s way on behalf of people in trouble all over the world and to provide us with an authoritative account. So I say to my noble friend the Minister: throw away the brief from the Home Office and go back to the department and tell it what has been said this evening. I am certain that, despite the media coverage and the information that is available, people in this country have no idea of the extent of the horrors that are being perpetrated against Christians.

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1895

In Syria, 56% of Christians have left during this conflict. The point about them is that they are not just fleeing civil war, they are fleeing persecution, and there is nowhere for them to flee to. If they go to the UN camps, they find themselves in fear and in danger because they are a minority there and subject to persecution. If they do not go to the official camps, they are not eligible under the Prime Minister’s programme to be brought to this country. So they have no place to go and wherever they go they live in fear. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. I am told that, prior to 2003, there were 60,000 Christians in Mosul, and now there is none. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has described the appalling atrocities that are going on day after day to people, including women and children, simply because they are Christians.

I do not wish to repeat the arguments about the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide, except to say that it does say that genocide is the systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. These people are being persecuted because they are Christians, and that is a recognised group. As has been pointed out, the importance of designating this as genocide is that it will enable us to take action and give these people sanctuary quickly and effectively as they need it.

I am told there are people who say that we cannot be seen to be discriminating in favour of Christians. Why not? This is a Christian country, and these people are in trouble because they are being discriminated against because of their religion. I say to the Minister that the plight we have heard of this evening is of fellow Christians, some of whom speak in the language of our saviour and who have been there since the birth of Christ himself. They are being driven out of their lands and horribly persecuted. We should not pass by on the other side. If it is impossible for the Government to adopt the suggestions contained in this amendment of recognising genocide for what it is, then at the very least they need to come up with some ideas as to how a safe haven can be provided for those Christians and how they can be helped by us, a Christian country with a historic record of being there for those in need.

When I studied history at university, I could never really understand how it was that the Nazi persecution of the Jews was allowed to go on for so long and that people were either unaware or unwilling to take action. In those days, there was at least the excuse that people might not know because communications were difficult. We know what is going on in Syria and Iraq daily, from the internet and the videos and the information provided. Even at this late hour, I hope that the Minister will take on board what has been said on this amendment and, if he cannot accept the amendment, that the Government will take some effective and urgent action to deal with those Christians, our brothers and sisters, in Syria and Iraq.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, anyone who went to any of the events connected with Holocaust Memorial Day just a few days ago will know that people said in 1945, “Never again”. Then we had serious tragedies and genocides in Bosnia, South Sudan and elsewhere. We keep saying that it must never happen again but it still does. I found the arguments put by the three

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1896

Members of the Committee who have spoken to the amendment very powerful. They are in the spirit of the commitments made on Holocaust Memorial Day—“Never again”. They are saying that because it is still happening we have to do something about the victims. I very much support the amendment.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, the Government should be rather ashamed that this debate is necessary. It has taken the whole consideration of the Bill on to a different plane from all the other amendments that I have listened to. It is so terrible that so-called diplomacy should be unable to do what is right. I have been deeply shocked that the Government, in being asked to give priority to Christians among the 20,000 Syrians who we are to admit during this Parliament as refugees, have said that they cannot do so because they cannot discriminate. The whole concept of refugees and asylum is discrimination. It is giving succour to those who need succour. I will go no further except to say that if the amendment were to come back to the House at Report and the Government resist it, they would be overwhelmingly and humiliatingly defeated.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, apart from all the powerful arguments of support that have been put forward, the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is one that we must all take particularly seriously. No one in this House has put their own life more on the line on issues of this kind than she has, and she has consistently done that with great courage. When she comes to us and says, “Please take this one step that would help, in terms of all that I have experienced”, we must take that seriously. I also feel very deeply that there is a real crisis in credibility with populations across the world. Governments speak with great rhetoric about these issues, but sometimes fail to provide the practical evidence that that rhetoric adds up to anything. Here is a chance to demonstrate that we mean what we say.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from these Benches I support the amendment. When I first started going to ceremonies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, what struck me most were the current examples that were used and of which we were reminded. Each year a theme is chosen and it is salutary to realise how topical those themes are. This is topical. There are many groups of people who are the subject of the treatment which has been described, and it has been notable during debate on this Bill how many noble Lords have referred to the experiences of their families. We may not be directly related to the people who are in such a situation, but as noble Lords have pointed out, we are all part of that one family.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate either, but having listened to the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and others, I cannot help but raise a voice on behalf of the Christian community. We are to a greater or lesser extent Christians in this country. We may not be very good Christians, but the idea that we cannot intervene on behalf of a Christian community because we might be discriminating strikes me as being absolutely

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1897

unacceptable and appalling. I hope that the Government will take close notice of that and think about this serious issue.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his moving speech. He spoke with his typical passion, and the way he presented the arguments and the accounts he gave have certainly had a great effect on me. I think that he has done a great service to the Committee by drawing the plight of Christians in the Middle East to our attention. My noble friend Lord Forsyth invited me to tear up my speech before he had actually had an opportunity to hear it, and of course he invited me to do it while I am currently enjoying the privilege of the company of the Chief Whip, who perhaps is little worried that I might take my noble friend’s advice.

I feel very strongly about this. We cannot be anything other than moved by the brutality and evil that we are seeing unleashed in the Middle East by Daesh. I have seen something of the situation for myself on a personal visit to Zahlé, which is the capital city of the Bekaa Valley and a Christian community. I am acutely aware of the pressures to which people are subject out there. However, I cannot accept that this Government are not doing everything they can; we are leading the way. We are in the week—tomorrow, I think—when the Prime Minister will host a conference on Syria here in London, just across the way. He will urge other people to step up to the mark. A DfID report pointed out that Britain is paying more than its fair share. It recognised that we are paying 226% of our international obligation in terms of cash to support people in the region. We are hosting the event and acting diplomatically by urging for a solution to the crisis, and of course we are also acting militarily in the region.

We need to put on the record some of these points because I think some myths are arising within the Christian community, and I say this very carefully as a member of that community. Some myths are emerging about where the discrimination occurs. We are not saying that Christians will not be considered but that they will be considered on an individual basis, and the criteria we are looking at, particularly within the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme, include women and girls at risk, those in need of serious medical care, and the survivors of torture and violence. Of course, in all the accounts we have heard about, they would certainly seem to be people who would qualify under that definition by what they have suffered and what they have experienced when they present to the authorities rather than by a general description. That is the central case we have put. At the moment, the basic principle is that applicants for refugee status must establish their need for protection on an individual basis, and for that reason we do not think that putting this to the Supreme Court is necessarily the right way. We believe that under the current rules, we have the ability to help the people who are in need.

We also need to put on the record at this point that the people who are actually suffering the greatest brutality at the hands of Daesh are fellow Muslims in the region—and the Yazidis, the Kurdish groups, that are there as well. They are suffering, too, and our

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1898

prime driving force when providing international humanitarian protection, which is what it is, is on the basis of need. That will continue to be our position.

I am very happy to meet noble Lords who have an interest in this area, with officials, to ensure that our system is sufficiently sensitive to understand what is happening on the ground—and the accounts of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the experiences of the Bishop of Aleppo. We want that understanding so that it can inform our decision-making and ensure that our system is correct and appropriate. I reiterate that those Christians who are female, at risk of persecution, survivors of torture and/or violence are exactly the people that our systems of humanitarian aid in the region and our systems of relocation to this country are designed to help.

10.30 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to my noble friend. I entirely accept what he says about Muslims being subject to horrors as well as Christians, but could he deal with the point that the problem for Christians is that they cannot go to the official camps because they fear for their safety, because, once again, they are a minority? Is there any possibility of creating some kind safe haven? That in itself may create a further security problem for them. The genocide point is that it would enable immediate action to be taken.

Lord Bates: Certainly, the situation is that we would take families from within the camps and from the surrounding areas. It is not exclusively from the camps; it is those who are identified as being in greatest need. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raises an interesting point on the camps. I shall certainly feed that back to the department and seek some reassurance, and perhaps write to him and other noble Lords on what protections are arranged in the camps where DfID and others are involved to be sensitive to the needs of Christians.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I thank my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth, Lord Dubs, Lord Marlesford and Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for their contributions to the debate and for supporting the amendment. I thank the Minister as well for the characteristic way in which he has tried to deal with the arguments that have been raised during our debate.

He mentioned the conference that will be taking place tomorrow. Last week I attended a briefing that was hosted by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. Throughout the presentation, not once was the position of minorities mentioned. I specifically raised that at the end of the presentation and the Secretary of State was helpful in her response, but it was not a presentation about events on the ground; it was about money being provided in humanitarian relief and aid. Important though that is, it is not the subject of the amendment and it is not the subject of my concern. I pay tribute to the Government for what they have done by way of humanitarian aid and I agree with them that countries such as Germany, which is co-hosting the conference, need to do more on that front and that we need to

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1899

tackle these problems at source. Until we rectify some of the reasons why people are being driven out of their homeland, we will continue to see this exodus of biblical proportions.

The Minister and I are on the same page on that. I agree with what the Government are doing in that respect, but money and aid are not the same as recognising what is happening on the ground as a genocide. That is why I cited the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week. We will see what the European Parliament decides today, but other national Parliaments, the 75 Members of both Houses, and the Motion referred to by my noble friend in the House of Commons last week say something altogether different, which is why the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said he was ashamed that this debate was necessary at all. So am I in many respects; we should not need to be debating this.

The Supreme Court is different from the Government. It is one step aside. If there is no evidence to demonstrate that there is genocide then the Supreme Court would say that. The Justices of the Supreme Court would make that determination and nothing further would have to happen. But if it decided that there was a prima facie case of genocide, then it would kick-start all the other things that need to happen, especially the special status that would then be given to those groups who had been targeted. Yes, they include Christians, but not Christians alone. They would be prioritised because they are victims of genocide. That would be the reason.

I am grateful for what the noble Lord said about meeting those of us who proposed the amendment tonight. I welcome that and certainly I would be happy to take part in discussions between now and Report, but it is important that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Justice and DfID, which the Minister referred to, are also part and parcel of that discussion. I know that some of the pressures against doing something on this issue have come from other departments.

We were told during this brief debate that we should recognise the magnitude of this catastrophe, but people had no idea of the scale of what is happening. There cannot be decent societies in the Middle East without plurality, diversity, tolerance and respect. Surely those have to be the reasons why we put this at the very top of the agenda. I have said before that Einstein’s definition of insanity is simply doing the same thing over and over again. Whatever military campaigns we have, however necessary it may be to engage in military action, will not fundamentally change things on the ground. What marks us out as different from organisations such as ISIS is our belief in the rule of law. Surely this goes to the very heart of what it means to believe in the rule of law and to uphold conventions that we are signatories to and which impose on us a duty to protect and to prosecute.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I also give notice that I intend to bring this back on Report if we are unable to make appropriate progress.

Amendment 234A withdrawn.

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Questions in Parliament:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL5364):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 January (HL4827), in the light of the statements of the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, in their press releases on Islamophobia (Dec 2015), some religious leaders’ incitement to Holy War (Sept 2015), bombing by the Assad regime (June 2015), and concerns about people caught in Yarmouk (April 2015), where their statements about the murder, abduction, enslavement and genocide of Christians and Yazidis appear. (HL5364)

Tabled on: 25 January 2016

  1. Answer:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

Statements made by the Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect are published on the UN website.

The statements cover a range of issues including incitement to violence in Syria on religious grounds; urging against rhetoric that escalates the risk of violence against religious communities; expressing concern about the on-going threat to the safety of minority groups in Syria; expressing outrage at speeches and media articles that dehumanise Alawites and Christians; expressing alarm at reports of the abduction of 1,500 Yazidi, Christian and Shabak women and girls; expressing concern at the situation of religious and other minorities, noting that members of the Christian community were fleeing the northern city of Mosul following the Daesh-led invasion; urging leaders in the wider region to refrain from using or condoning any language that may escalate sectarian tension; calling on all actors to condemn hate speech that could constitute incitement to violence against communities based on their religious affiliation.

The complete statements are attached to this response, and the link to the website is provided below for your ease of reference: http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/statements.shtml

The following documents were submitted as part of the answer and are appended to this email:

  1. File name: Statements for HL5363 5364.pdf
    Description: UN Special Adviser Statements

Date and time of answer: 04 Feb 2016 at 17:16.

 

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL5449):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 January (HL4827), what assessment they have made of the capacity of the United Nations Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect, to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for genocide against Yazidis and Christians. (HL5449)

Tabled on: 26 January 2016

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The role of the UN Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is to raise awareness of the causes and dynamics of genocide, to alert relevant actors where there is a risk of genocide, and to advocate and mobilise for appropriate action. The role of the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect is to lead the conceptual, political, institutional and operational development of the Responsibility to Protect. They are not mandated to carry out criminal/judicial investigations, and therefore the British Government has made no assessment of their capacity to do so.

Date and time of answer: 04 Feb 2016 at 16:57.

 

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  The Council of Europe’s Assembly recognizes that ISIS committed “genocide” under international law

 

 

From Gregor Puppinck

Director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, Strasbourg (France).

 

 

On January 27 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg) has adopted, almost unanimously, a resolution recognising that “individuals who act in the name of the terrorist entity which calls itself Da’ish” “have perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law.” In this resolution, entitled “Foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq” 2091 (2016), the Assembly continues “States should act on the presumption that Da’ish [i.e. ISIS] commits genocide and should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (§2). The Assembly also “recalls that under international law States have a positive obligation to prevent genocide, and thus should do their utmost to prevent their own nationals from taking part in such acts” (§ 3).

The Assembly calls on its 47 Member States as well as on its observer and partner’s States (including Mediterranean States) to, inter alia, “fulfil their positive obligations under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide by taking all necessary measures to prevent genocide”.

 

The amendment providing for the recognition of the genocide has been largely supported, adopted by 109 votes against 6 (among which 3 are Turkish MPs).

 

The “crime of genocide” has a precise definition in international law: it concerns crimes “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. It is therefore evident that Iraqis Christians and Yezidis are victims in Irak of genocide.

 

According to International law, the recognition of a “crime of genocide” imposes on the States and the International community the obligation to act in order to prevent it, to defend attacked communities and to judge and punish those responsible. Is also punishable the attempt, conspiracy, and incitement to commit genocide. Thus, any individual, organization or state, wherever they might be –including Europe and in the US – should be criminally prosecuted as soon as they publically encourage these crimes or are accomplices of them.

 

The recognition of the genocide is therefore a first fundamental step to obtain that the international community acts.

 

Pieter Omtzigt, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, who advocated for the recognition of the “genocide” explains that this recognition is important because the 1948 UN Convention on genocide puts the obligation on countries to take measures to stop the genocide. “One of the measures countries must take is preventing their own citizens from travelling to Raqqa and becoming a member of the organization that commits genocide”. Omtzigt precises that “In a number of European countries membership of a terrorist organization (like DAESH) is an offense and the authorities can send people to prison for just that.” Therefore, the recognition of the genocide not only put duties on the State to fight against this terrorism, including on its own territory, but also facilitates this action.

 

On February 4th, the European Parliament (the Parliament of the Brussel’s European Union) will vote on the same issue. During the recent debate over “the systematic massacre of religious minorities by the “Islamic state” group”, the High Representative for the European Union for foreign affairs, Mrs Federica Mogherini, omitted to use the term of genocide.

 

Some governments and Parliaments already recognized this genocide.

The time has come for the European Institution and the United Nations to do the same.

 

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The Council of Europe’s Assembly recognizes that ISIS committed “genocide” under international law

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 All Party Motion Tabled in the House of Commons: January 26th 2016.

GENOCIDE IN SYRIA AND IRAQ                             26:1:16

 

Robert Flello

Fiona Bruce

John Pugh

Mark Durkan

Patrick Grady

Catherine McKinnell

Valerie Vaz

 

That this House is appalled by the beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, burnings, other murders, torture, rape and extensive violence being perpetrated by Daesh or IS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq on the basis of religion and ethnicity; observes that this disgusting behaviour clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; notes the recent report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq, which concludes that Daesh is holding approximately 3,500 slaves, mostly women and children in Iraq, primarily from the Yazidi community, and describes Daesh’s systematic and widespread violence as staggering, concluding that these acts amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide; and calls on the Government to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that the provisions of the Convention can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented.

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BBC snapshot of ISIS atrocities  – January 2016: UN Report “These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-35349861

The UN says violence suffered by civilians in Iraq “remains staggering”, with at least 18,800 killed between 1 January 2014 and 31 October 2015.

Some 3.2 million people have also been displaced internally over the same period, according to a new report.

The UN accuses so-called Islamic State of systematic and widespread violence, including holding some 3,500 mainly women and children as slaves.

Alleged abuses by troops, militiamen and Kurdish forces were also recorded.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the report “starkly illustrates what Iraqi refugees are attempting to escape when they flee to Europe and other regions. This is the horror they face in their homelands”.

‘Gruesome spectacles’

The report, by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is based on interviews with the displaced and direct testimony from victims, survivors or witnesses of rights abuses.

It says the figures of 18,802 civilians killed and 36,245 wounded between 1 January 2014 and 31 October 2015 could be much higher.

 

Documented cases of IS abuse in 2015

10 July: IS militants force victims to lie down in central Mosul in front of large crowd. A bulldozer is driven over them

4 June: Two young males and a 60-year-old man thrown from a building in Ninewa for alleged homosexual acts

1-2 August: IS militants allegedly kill 19 women in Mosul for refusing to have sex with fighters

21 June: Women offered as sex slaves to the top three winners of a Koran memorisation competition in Mosul

23 June: IS group video shows men placed in a car and hit by rocket-propelled grenade; men drowned in a cage; men decapitated with explosives

12-15 July: Four imams in Mosul accused by self-appointed IS court of conducting forbidden taraweeh Ramadan prayers. Shot in the head

Source: UN Report on the Protection on Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq 1 May-31 October 2015


In particular, the figures from the conflict-torn western province of Anbar, much of which is held by IS, might not fully reflect the situation.

About half of the deaths were recorded in Baghdad province and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the deadliest tactic used against civilians.

Nevertheless, the figures for civilian deaths are still significantly below those recorded at the height of the sectarian insurgency in Iraq in 2006 and 2007.

 

Analysis: BBC’s Ahmed Maher in Dahuk

Before so-called Islamic State swept across large areas of the country in 2014 and except for the 2006-07 sectarian war between Sunnis and Shia, the civilian death rate was much lower than the toll in this latest UN report.

The monthly average rate between 2010 and 2013, for example, was about 400 deaths, which also included domestic violence and crimes.

The latest figure will also certainly be much higher than the UN reports, because there are many no-go areas for activists and journalists.

IS militants brag about killing anyone who they perceive as “non-believers” of their extremist Islamist ideology. Followers of other religions have also been singled out – with Yazidis and Christians taking the brunt of summary executions and murders.

And Baghdad still represents a large percentage of civilian deaths, with IS militants targeting shopping centres, cafes, schools and markets.


The report says: “So-called Islamic State continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law.

“These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

The report documents killings by IS militants “in gruesome public spectacles, including by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings”.

It notes that up to 900 children have been abducted in the IS-held northern city of Mosul, to be indoctrinated and given military training.

Women and children were also subjected to “sexual violence”, the report states.

It says about 3,500 people, mainly women and children and largely from the Yazidi community, were being held as slaves.

The UN Special Representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said the “scourge of IS continues to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and to cause untold suffering”.

The report also documents alleged violations, including abductions and unlawful killings, by government forces, militiamen, members of the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Civilians displaced by the conflict face difficulties in finding safety and if they do can be subjected to arbitrary arrests or forced expulsions, the UN says.

Mr Kubis urged the Iraqi government to “use all means to ensure law and order, necessary for the voluntary return of the internally displaced to their place of origin”.

Mr Hussein said the “obscene” casualty figures did not fully reflect the suffering of civilians as many had died “from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care”.

The most up-to-date UN estimate of internally displaced people in neighbouring Syria is 6.5 million, while more than 4.6 million others have fled to neighbouring states – including almost 245,000 to Iraq.

More than 250,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the conflict erupted there in 2011.

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IDC/ In Defense of Christians (09.01.2016) – On December 31, 2015, In Defense of Christians (IDC) President Toufic Baaklini made the following statement:

 

“Yesterday evening at a town hall meeting, IDC New Hampshire supporter Father Andrew Nelson asked Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ‘Tonight, with all of us here, will you join those leaders, faith leaders and secular leaders and political leaders from both the right and the left, in calling what is happening by its proper name: Genocide?’

 

“Secretary Clinton responded, ‘I will because we now have enough evidence.’ She added, ‘What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS, and so I agree with you.'”

 

Marist Poll: Americans Say ISIS is Committing Genocide Against Christians

 

On December 31, the Knights of Columbus Published a poll which finds that most Americans say ISIS is committing genocide against Christians:

 

“By a wide margin, most Americans agree with the presidential candidates of both parties in calling ISIS’ atrocities against Christians in the Middle East “genocide,” according to a KofC-Marist poll conducted this month.

 

“Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee and Martin O’Malley have all called the situation genocide.

 

“By almost 20 points, 55 percent to 36 percent, Americans agree that this targeting of Christians and other religious minorities meets the U.N. definition of genocide.

 

“In addition, nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59 percent), say they have heard “a great deal” or “a good amount” about the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities in the region by ISIS.”

 

To read more, click here: http://prn.to/1J5cIHC 

 

IDC Board Members and Chairman Royce Write Letter to Secretary Kerry

 

IDC Board Members Professor Robert Destro and Dr. Thomas Farr signed an important left-right, ecumenical coalition letter that was sent on Dec. 4 to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, requesting a meeting to brief him about genocide confronting Iraq and Syria’s Christian communities. Signatories represented a broad range of distinguished religious leaders and scholars.

 

On December 23, Chairman Royce, along with 29 Members of the House of Representatives, also sent a letter to Secretary Kerry asking that the State Department acknowledge and respond to the aforementioned letter signed by IDC’s Board Members, and expressing his concern that the administration may exclude Christians from a potential genocide determination.

 

In the letter to Secretary Kerry, the members write: “We are gravely concerned by persistent press reports that the Administration is preparing a genocide finding that would apply only to Yazidis, and may avoid judgment about whether ISIL is also committing genocide against Christians and the other minorities it is eliminating. … At the hands of ISIL, Christians and other minorities have faced mass murder, crucifixions, sexual slavery, torture, beheadings, the kidnapping of children, and other violence deliberately calculated to eliminate their communities from the so-called Islamic State.”

 

The signed letter is available here: http://1.usa.gov/1PtKOlh 

 

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

 

On December 23, President Obama released the following statement (http://1.usa.gov/1YDv0kL ):

 

“During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.

 

In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.”

 

On December 28, IDC Executive Director Kirsten Evans told Newsmax, “In Defense of Christians is grateful to President Obama for making this year’s annual Christmas message an opportunity to manifest solidarity with and raise awareness about the terrible plight of the Christian community under ISIS.”

 

Senators Introduce Companion Resolution to H. Con. Res. 75

 

On December 18, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced for himself and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) a bipartisan resolution, S. Res. 340, denouncing the genocide against Christians and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. Click here to read the Arabic translation of the resolution by IDC Iraq Adviser Loay Mikhael.

 

The companion house resolution, H. Con. Res. 75, which was introduced by Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE) in September, now has 170 co-sponsors.

 

IDC is working with a broad, bi-partisan coalition of American and international religious leaders, activists, and scholars in urging the administration to officially recognize the genocide ISIS has waged against Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.

 

At IDC’s National Leadership Convention in September, more than 120 IDC state chapter leaders from across America, in an unprecedented show of unified political action on behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, pressed lawmakers to support H. Con. Res. 75, meeting with over 250 Congressional offices in a day.

 

Please ask your representative and senators to co-sponsor H. Con. Res. 75 and S. Res. 340 if they have not already! Click here to see if your representative has co-sponsored H. Con. Res. 75 andhere to see if your senators have co-sponsored S. Res. 340.

 

United Kingdom Parliamentarians Write to PM Cameron About Christian Genocide

 

On December 21, Lord Alton & Rob Flello, MP led a letter signed by more than sixty parliamentarians from both Houses to PM Cameron calling for the slaughter of Christians and Yazidis in Syria to be  named as a genocide and requesting to meet with the Prime Minister:

 

“We write to ask you to meet a delegation of Members from both Houses and all parties to discuss our profound concern at what is now clearly best described as “genocide” being perpetrated by Daesh against minority communities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable groups.

 

“There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. ISIS has made its own public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.

 

To read more, click here: http://bit.ly/1O6sNgk 

 

Parliament of Lithuania Passes Genocide Resolution, European Parliamentarian Prepares to Introduce Resolution

 

On December 15, the Parliament of Lithuania passed a resolution by massive majority calling on the United Nations and the European Parliament to recognize the plight of Christians in the Middle East – and in particular in Syria, Iraq, Iran and north Africa – as an act of genocide and to act in accordance with the UN Human Rights Convention. Lithuania is the first EU country to legally call the persecution of Christians in the Middle East by Isis and other Muslim organisations genocide.

 

A European Parliamentarian is also working on a resolution calling on EU members to recognize that the Islamic State terror group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities, and act upon that reality. Lars Adaktusson of the Christian Democrats party in Sweden wrote (November 30) in an op-ed published by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladetthat there is clear evidence IS wants to eradicate all Christians from the territory it has captured across Iraq and Syria.

 

To read more, click here: http://bit.ly/231GBz4

 

View all ” Freedom of Religion or Belief” Newsletters: 

http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/

View this newsletter:

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Iraq2015.pdf 

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Syria2015.pdf 

 

December 2015:

“Why, we ask the western world, why not raise one’s voice over so much ferocity and injustice?” asked Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI). The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III has also said “I do not understand why the world does not raise its voice against such acts of brutality.” Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan appealed to other nations: “not to forget the Christians in the Middle East.”

Patriarch Sako on Christian Persecution: ‘Is This Not a Crime Against Humanity?” by Edward Pentin:

“In one night, 120,000 Christians left their homes just with their clothes and have been living in camps for one and a half years. Is this not a crime against humanity?”

His Beatitude, Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans, spoke of this and other serious hardships and persecutions against Christians, at a recent Rome conference on religious freedom….

So extensive and brutal has the persecution become that calls have been increasing in the U.S. the European Union and the U.K. to classify the atrocities taking place there as genocide.

As well as the humanitarian emergency and forced displacement caused primarily by the brutality of the jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS), Patriarch Sako also mentioned other facts regarding persecution in Iraq not widely known.

These included the approval in October of a law in the Iraqi parliament to forcibly convert to Islam children who are Christian, Yazidi and Sabean if one of the parents proclaims to be Muslim, and the advance of political Islam in which sharia (Islamic law) doesn’t allow non-Muslims to participate in politics and have equal constitutional rights as Muslims in administration.

ISIS leaders, he said, have established three “rules of trade” with non-Muslims: “forcing people to convert to Islam, to pay a tax (jizya) or leave their house, or be beheaded.”

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the last day, nor forbid what has been forbidden by Allah and his Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of truth, of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” — Qur’an 9:29

He further pointed out that the numbers of Christians in Iraq has collapsed, falling from 1.4 million before the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime to currently 500,000.

“Today, everything in Iraq has become sectarian,” said Archbishop Sako. “Daesh/ISIS and extremists attack Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans because of their belief. They destroy anything that does not fit into their vision of Islam.”

IS massacre of minorities is genocide, Hillary Clinton concedes

BBC news – December 30th

Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she now believes the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians, the Yazidi minority and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East should be defined as genocide.

Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she now believes the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians, the Yazidi minority and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East should be defined as genocide.

Her declaration came in response to a voter at a town hall in early-voting state New Hampshire, her last campaign event of 2015.

Mrs Clinton said she had been reluctant to use the term in recent months because calling something “genocide” had broad implications.

The voter who asked her to use the term genocide to describe the Islamic State (IS) killings cited world leaders including the Pope and various advocacy groups that are using the phrase to define the extremist group’s killing of Christians, Yazidis, Kurdish Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minorities.

“Will you join those leaders, faith leaders and secular leaders and political leaders from both the right and the left, in calling what is happening by its proper name, genocide?” the voter asked. “I will because we now have enough evidence,” Mrs Clinton replied.

IS’s actions, she said, were “deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives, but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by Isis (another name for IS).”

More than 100 members of the US Congress introduced a resolution in September calling “atrocities” committed by IS against Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities genocide.

————————————————————

Religious freedom campaigners welcome Hilary Clinton backing for “genocide” claims

 

British religious freedom campaigners in Parliament have welcomed today’s announcement by Presidential hopeful, Hilary Clinton, that the killing of Syrian and Iraqi Christians and other vulnerable minorities by Daesh/Isis should be considered “genocide”.

 

Rob Flello MP (Labour, Stoke on Trent South) and Independent Crossbench Peer, Lord Alton, organized a letter just before Christmas to Prime Minister, David Cameron, signed by now 75 Members of both Houses of Parliament calling for the British Government to use all its influence to encourage the United Nations to describe the killings as “genocide”.

 

Speaking today on behalf of the signatories, they say: “That the US Democratic Presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, has now gone on public record that there is ‘now enough evidence’ that the killings by Isis constitute genocide is a huge boost to our campaign. As former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton knows the Middle East well and her backing for our position sends a very clear signal to the United Nations that it should determine that genocide is indeed being perpetrated. This will require the now 147 signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to act to end this persecution and to ensure that in due course its perpetrators are caught, tried and punished for their evil crimes.”

 

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction Devicechristian genocide

 

Christian and Yazidi murders at the hands of ISIS MUST be classed as genocide: Peers and MPs urge UN to act

NEWS:

Prime Minister must act on “genocide” in Middle East.

  Senior politicians are calling on Prime Minister, David Cameron, to act on the “genocide” being perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East; with one Member of the House of Lords accusing Governments of a “serious dereliction of their duty”.   Over 70 Parliamentarians have written to the Prime Minister urging that the British Government “use all the influence of Her Majesty’s Government at the United Nations to obtain an agreement that the word “genocide” should be used” in relation to the atrocities being committed in Iraq and Syria.  

They cite evidence of assassinations by ISIS of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity.  

Defining the atrocities as “genocide” would require the United Nations and the 127 signatory nations to act to implement the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide which defines genocide as a systematic killing or seriously harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be “national, ethnic, racial or religious” and the treaty identifies “acts committed with intent to destroy [that group] in whole or in part.”  

Rob Flello MP (Labour, Stoke on Trent South), one of the lead signatories of the letter says: “Daesh are an evil cult who have unleashed a tide of death on Christians and other minority religions in the areas where they have seized control. We must send a clear and unequivocal message to them that eventually they will be held to account by the international community for their atrocities. We hope the Prime Minister will now act swiftly to encourage the United Nations to describe these killings as the orchestrated genocide they are.”  

Lord Alton of Liverpool, adds: “If beheadings, crucifixions, enslavement, rape, the seizure of homes and property, and mass graves, does not constitute genocide it is hard to imagine what does. The deliberate targeting of people because of their ethnicity or religion is precisely what constitutes genocide and that is precisely what has happened to Yazidis and Christians.  Under international law, the failure of Governments and political leaders to name this as genocide is a serious dereliction of their duty.”    

The seventy five signatories , of all faiths and none, are drawn from both Houses of Parliament, all political parties and include three Anglican Bishops, a former Director General of the Security Services Management Board [Lord Evans], a former Chief of the Defence Staff [Field Marshall the Lord Guthrie], former Ministers and Secretaries of State, professors and senior lawyers.
Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London SW1A 2AA

21st December 2015

 

Dear Prime Minister,

 

Genocide perpetrated by Daesh/ISIS against minorities

 

We write to ask you to meet a delegation of Members from both Houses and all parties to discuss our profound concern at what is now clearly best described as “genocide” being perpetrated by Daesh against minority communities including Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable groups.

 

There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; forcible conversions to Islam; destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. ISIS has made its own public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.

 

As you know, “genocide” is defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide which makes it quite clear that genocide is not simply the random killing of individuals, but is rather a systematic killing or seriously harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be “national, ethnic, racial or religious” and the treaty identifies “acts committed with intent to destroy [that group] in whole or in part.”

 

There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Daesh falls within that definition. We hope that by meeting with us we will have the opportunity to convince you to use all the influence of Her Majesty’s Government at the United Nations to obtain an agreement that the word “genocide” should be used.

 

This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the U.N. that genocide is being perpetrated. First, it would send a very clear message to those organizing and undertaking this slaughter that at some point in the future they will be held accountable by the international community for their actions; they will be caught, tried and punished. Second, it would encourage the 127 nations that are signatories to the Convention to face up to their duty to take the necessary action to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators of these evil acts We do hope that you will give this request for an urgent meeting your most careful and sympathetic consideration.

 

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours ever,

 

Rob Flello MP and Lord Alton of Liverpool

And the following signatories:

 Richard Arkless MP

Lord Avebury

Lord Brennan QC

Baroness Brinton

The Bishop of Bristol

Alan Brown MP

David Burrowes MP

Sir William Cash MP

Maria Caulfield MP

The Bishop of Chester

Rosie Cooper MP

Lord Cotter

Baroness Cox

Mary Creagh MP

Alex Cunningham MP

Jim Cunningham MP

David Davies MP

Rt Rev Lord Eames Lord Edmiston

Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL

Lord German OBE

Stephen Gethins MP

Mary Glindon MP

Mary Goudie MP

Lord Gordon

Field Marshal Lord Guthrie

Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Meg Hillier MP

Simon Hoare MP

Kate Hoey MP

Prof. Baroness Hollins

Philip Hollobone MP

Sir Gerald Howarth MP

Baroness Hooper

George Howarth MP

Mike Kane MP

Seema Kennedy MP

Lord Kilclooney

Jeremy Lefroy MP

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP

Rt Hon Lord Luce GCVO DL

Gordon Marsden MP

Baroness Masham

Lord McColl of Dulwich

Rt Hon Lord McFall of Alcluith

Conor McGinn MP

John McNally MP

Mark Menzies MP

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

Baroness O’Loan

Lord O’Shaughnessy

The Bishop of Peterborough

Mark Pritchard MP

Lord Ribeiro

Margaret Ritchie MP

The Bishop of Saint Albans

Lord Shinkwin

Gavin Shuker MP

Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Henry Smith MP

Gary Streeter MP

Gisela Stuart MP

Lord Swinfen

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Derek Thomas MP

Michael Tomlinson MP

The Bishop of Truro

Tom Tugendhat MP

Andrew Turner MP

Derek Twigg MP

Lord Willis

Sammy Wilson MP

The Bishop of Worcester

 

 —————————————————————————————————————-

Speaking after a meeting with Foreign Office Minister and Cabinet member, Baroness Anelay, and following the letter to the Prime Minister by 75 Parliamentarians, Lord Alton said: “It’s clear that the Government is listening to our concerns. I understand that Ministers are now looking at whether UK law and legal structures might provide an effective response and whether a Regional Tribunal to prosecute genocide might be constituted. This is welcome news which we hope will also see the United Nations declare as genocide the killing of innocent Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities.”

 

And Rob Flello MP, one of the organisers of the letter to the Prime Minister, called for action to lobby MPs, saying: “Thousands are being tortured, maimed and murdered in the Middle East simply because of their faith. We cannot stand idly by. I call on everybody in the country to use the opportunity of Christmas to lobby their local MP and to ask him or her to take up directly with the Prime Minister the need for urgent, coordinated action to prevent and punish this genocide.”

scan0011

 

IRAQ/SYRIA

 

Resolved, That the Senate-

declares that ISIS and its leaders should be charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes;

 

IRAQ/SYRIA
 

IRAQ/SYRIA

US Senate Resolution on Genocide in Iraq/Syria

 

 

 

114TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION S. RES. ll

 

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

 

Mr. CASSIDY submitted the following resolution

 

 

Expressing the sense of Congress that the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS or Da’esh) is committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and calling upon the President to work with foreign governments and the United Nations to provide physical protection for ISIS’ targets, to support the creation of an international criminal tribunal with jurisdiction to punish these crimes, and to use every reasonable means, including sanctions, to destroy ISIS and disrupt its support networks.

 

Whereas communities of Assyrian Chaldean Syriac, Armenian, Evangelical, and Melkite Christians; Kurds; Yezidis; Shia and Sunni Muslims; Turkmen; Sabea-Mandeans; Kaka’e; and Shabaks have been an integral part of the cultural fabric of the Middle East for millennia;

 

Whereas Article I of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed at Paris December 9, 1948 (in this resolution referred to as the “Convention”) states that “the contracting parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish”;

 

Whereas Article II of the Convention declares, “In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”;

 

Whereas Article III of the Convention affirms, “The following acts shall be punishable: (a) Genocide; (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (d) Attempt to commit genocide; (e) Complicity in genocide.”;

 

Whereas section 1091 of title 18, United States Code, declares that “genocide” occurs when any person “whether in time of peace or in time of war and with the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group as such (1) kills members of that group; (2) causes serious bodily injury to members of that group; (3) causes the permanent impairment of the mental faculties of members of the group through drugs, torture, or similar techniques; (4) subjects the group to conditions of life that are intended to cause the physical destruction of the group in whole or in part; (5) imposes measures intended to prevent births within the group; or (6) transfers by force children of the group to another group”;

 

Whereas subsection (c) of section 2441 of title 18, United States Code, defines a “war crime” as conduct “(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party; (2) prohibited by Article 23 , 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907; (3) which constitutes a grave breach of common Article 3 [defined in subsection (d) of such section as torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, performing biological experiments, murder, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, or taking hostages] when committed in the context of and in association with an armed conflict not of an international character; or (4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians”;

 

Whereas the United States has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000, and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which defines “trafficking in persons” to mean “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” and defines exploitation as including, “at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”;

 

Whereas section 2331 of title 18, United States Code, defines “international terrorism activities” as “activities that (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum”;

 

Whereas section 2332b of title 18, United States Code, defines “terrorism transcending national boundaries” to include “(A) kill[ings], kidnap[ing]s, maim[ing]s, commit[ing] an assault resulting in serious bodily injury, or assaults with a dangerous weapon [of or on] any person within the United States; or (B) creat[ing] a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to any other person by destroying or damaging any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States or by attempting or conspiring to destroy or damage any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States; in violation of the laws of any State, or the United States,”;

 

Whereas the President, with the assistance of the Secretary of State and the Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, is obligated under section 2113(b) of the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007 (22 U.S.C. 8213(b)) to “collect information regarding incidents that may constitute crimes against humanity, genocide, slavery, or other violations of international humanitarian law” and “shall consider what actions can be taken to ensure that any government of a country or the leaders or senior officials of such government who are responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, slavery, or other violations of international humanitarian law identified [pursuant to such collection of information] are brought to account for such crimes in an appropriately constituted tribunal”;

 

Whereas Article I of the Convention and the law of nations confirm that government authorities are obligated to prevent and punish acts constituting genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes;

 

Whereas, on July 10, 2015, Pope Francis, Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, declared that the pattern of crimes committed by ISIS and its affiliates against Christians are part of a “third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing,” and that “a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end”;

 

Whereas the 2011 Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities declares, “Preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States… [and that] our options are never limited to either sending in the military or standing by and doing nothing… The actions that can be taken are many-they range from economic to diplomatic interventions, and from non-combat military actions to outright intervention.”;

 

Whereas, on August 7, 2014, President Barak Obama authorized military action to stop ISIS’ advance in northern Iraq, and “to prevent a potential act of genocide” against Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar;

 

Whereas, on August 7, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry, stated that ISIS’ “campaign of terror against the innocent, including Yezedi and Christian minorities, and its grotesque and targeted acts of violence bear all the warning signs and hallmarks of genocide”;

 

Whereas, on March 27, 2015, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that its mission to Iraq had “gathered reliable information about acts of violence perpetrated against civilians because of their affiliation or perceived affiliation to an ethnic or religious group,” that the “[e]thnic and religious groups targeted by ISIL include Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, Kurds and Shia,” and stated, “It is reasonable to conclude, in the light of the information gathered overall, that some of those incidents may constitute genocide. Other incidents may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes.”;

 

Whereas the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has “called on the U.S. government to designate the Christian, Yazidi, Shi’a, Turkmen, and Shabak communities of Iraq and Syria as victims of genocide by ISIL” and USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George has observed that “ISIL’s intent to destroy religious groups that do not subscribe to its extremist ideology in the areas of Iraq and Syria that it controls, or seeks to control, is evident in, not only its barbarous acts, but also its own propaganda”; and

 

Whereas members of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, in their Appeal to Congress of September 9, 2015, stated, “ISIS’s mass murders of Chaldean, Assyrian, Melkite Greek, and Coptic Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, Sunni Kurds and other religious groups meet even the strictest definition of genocide.”: Now, therefore, be it

 

Resolved, That the Senate-

(1) finds that ISIS, its affiliated organizations, and supporters are parts of an expanding, worldwide criminal network, the members of which have pledged allegiance to its leaders, support its actions, act in concert with them, claim credit for targeted killings, and are “fully aware that [their] participation” and support will “assist [in] the commission” of its crimes;

 

(2) finds that ISIS and its affiliated organizations maintain sophisticated publishing and social media networks that seek to attract others to join their efforts and seek to incite the murder of Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Jews, and any religious believers who refuse to convert to their Wahhabi-Salafist jihadist ideology;

 

(3) declares that ISIS and its leaders should be charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes;

 

(4) calls upon on the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute any United States citizens or residents alleged to be perpetrators of or complicit in these crimes and to report back to Congress regarding what steps are being taken to investigate and prosecute those involved;

 

(5) calls upon the Secretary of the Treasury to investigate and sanction any person, organization, business, or financial institution alleged to be perpetrators of or complicit in these crimes, and to report back to Congress regarding what additional authority, if any, is needed to disrupt ISIS financial support networks;

 

(6) calls upon the President to authorize the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues to cooperate in the collection of forensic evidence of crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, slavery, or other violations of international humanitarian law;

 

(7) calls on the President, the Secretary of State, and the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, working through the United Nations Security Council and its member states as appropriate, to accelerate the implementation of an immediate, coordinated, and sustained response to provide humanitarian assistance, protect civilians, build resilience, and help reestablish livelihoods for displaced and persecuted persons in their communities of origin;

 

(8) calls upon the contracting parties to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed at Paris December 9, 1948, and other international agreements forbidding war crimes and crimes against humanity, to join with the United States in an effort to investigate, arrest, and prosecute individual and organizational perpetrators responsible for these crimes;

 

(9) calls upon the United Nations Secretary-General to urge all United Nations member states to cooperate in an international effort to investigate, try, and prosecute all cases in which prosecutors can prove that the accused have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide;

 

(10) makes an urgent appeal to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to collaborate on the establishment and operation of domestic, regional, and hybrid international tribunals with jurisdiction to punish the individuals and organizations responsible for or complicit in actions that constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide; and

 

(11) commends the Governments of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and every other country sheltering and protecting individuals fleeing the violence of ISIS.

 

For further information: the resolution can be viewed on www.Congress.gov

at: http://1.usa.gov/1TcEke4 

 

Further Reading:

Isil killings should be recognised as genocide (Telegraph.co.uk)

Politicians call on PM to act on Islamic State’s “genocide” against Christians (Premier.org.uk)

Minority killings by IS should be recognised as Genocide (Anglicanmainstream.org)

Prime Minister must act on genocide in Middle East (thecatholicuniverse.com)

MPs put pressure on David Cameron to recognise Christian ‘genocide’ in the Middle East (thetablet.co.uk)

David Cameron urged to recognise ISIS slaughter of Christians as genocide (The Catholic Herald)

View all ” Freedom of Religion or Belief” Newsletters:

http://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/ 

View this newsletter:

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Iraq2015.pdf 

http://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Syria2015.pdf 

 

 

Subject: BBC: Minority killings by IS ‘should be recognised as genocide’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35147645

EWTN news report https://youtu.be/s4MyTI_hgnw?t=4m28s

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/un-urged-to-label-isis- crimes-against-yazidi-community-as-genocide-a6781301.html

 

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/12061446/Isil-killings-should-be-recognised-as-genocide-MPs-and-peers-write-in-letter-to-David-Cameron.html

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/628703/ISIS-United-Nations-Genocide-MPs-David-Cameron-Islamic-State-Iraq-Syria-Yazidi-Women

 

http://www.premier.org.uk/News/UK/Politicians-call-on-PM-to-act-on-Islamic-State-s-genocide-against-Christians

 

http://anglicanmainstream.org/minority-killings-by-is-should-be-recognised-as-genocide-letter-to-pm/

 

http://www.thecatholicuniverse.com/prime-minister-must-act-on-genocide-in-middle-east-7446

 

http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/2913/0/mps-put-pressure-on-david-cameron-to-recognise-christian-genocide-in-the-middle-east

 

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/12/21/david-cameron-urged-to-recognise-isis-slaughter-of-christians-as-genocide/

 

Yesterday  (December 21st) a Government Cabinet Minister met a delegation of Parliamentarians to discuss their concerns about genocide being committed by Daesh/ISIS against Iraqi and Syrian Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups.

  

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will met with Lord Alton of Liverpool and Baroness Berridge ns assured the Peers that the British government is actively looking at ways in which those responsible for what the Peers described as genocide will be brought to justice.  

 

The meeting followed the release  earlier in the day of a letter signed by over 70 senior Parliamentarians, setting out their concern that the British Government should do more to persuade the United Nations formally to declare the attacks by Isis on minorities as “genocide”. This would bring into effect the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, and so put pressure on its 127 signatories to take action to prevent the continuing atrocities.

 Speaking in advance of the meeting, Lord Alton said: “We are now encouraging everyone who shares our concern about the slaughter of the innocents in the Middle East to take the opportunity of Christmas to contact their local Member of Parliament to register their dismay at what is happening and to ask their MP to raise the matter personally with the Prime Minister.”

————

 

Audio interview: 

Link to Rob Flello MP – Today programme at around 48 minutes 50 seconds: 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06s8712 

Background note to the letter:

U.N. Definition of a Genocide

Article II of the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention says, “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Alton – “ISIS actions should be declared as genocide against Yazidis and Christians.  Aerial bombardment is not enough. Government challenged to say where the 70,000 ground troops to follow through the air campaign will come from. Britain should support the Kurdish-Assyrian Alliance who have been fighting ISIS.”

See full speech:

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/56d6f568-93c2-40d6-8142-05c74529d016
Syria: UK Military Action: December 2nd 2015

Motion to Take Note
 
6.17 pm
 
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):
 
My Lords, the just war tradition insists that war must always be a last resort-a necessary evil in an imperfect world. Measured against the just war criteria, the Government’s case is undoubtedly strong but there are legitimate questions to ask. Let us take two of the criteria: a just cause and prospects of success. Is the cause just? Self-evidently, ISIS’s barbaric ideology is the antithesis of everything that a free society upholds and stands for. We will need a full-spectrum strategy to deal with it, and I welcome the references in the Commons Motion to non-military action.
 
But how can we entrench in the popular imagination the justice of military action and the justice of the cause?
 
For months in your Lordships’ House I have pressed the Government to formally declare the actions of ISIS in Syria as genocide. Our obligations are set out in the preamble to the sixth recital of the 1998 Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, which recalls that,
 
“it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes”,
 
while the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide states that the obligation each state thus has to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide is not territorially limited by the convention.
 
I recently chaired a meeting in Parliament attended by Syrians and the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. At the weekend, a mass grave of Yazidis was uncovered near Sinjar. Months ago, a former Yazidi MP, speaking here, said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide.
 
In the battle of ideas, the rule of law is the best antidote to ISIS. Capturing and holding those responsible for these atrocities-whether in Syria, Paris, Tunisia, the Sinai or elsewhere-would underline the justice of our actions, and the declaration of genocide should have preceded further military action. We should name this for what it is.

My other question concerns the probability of success.

Drones and Tornados have never captured anyone. I regret the phrase in the Government Motion in the Commons ruling out the use of ground forces.

Without a commitment to an international ground force, as in Kuwait or the Balkans, I remain unconvinced about the probability of success and disturbed that Parliament is being asked to believe a Panglossian figure of 70,000 so-called moderate fighters in Syria.

This is no army: it represents a kaleidoscope of opinions, objectives and capability; they are split into a hundred factions and are geographically spread across Syria. Unlike the Peshmerga and SDF alliance, made up of Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs, which has taken 1,300 square kilometres from ISIS and which I have repeatedly pressed the Government to support-and do so again today-this dodgy figure of 70,000 will not provide a ground force capable of ensuring success. When the Minister comes to reply, I hope that he will tell us what additional support will be given to the SDF.

Western air strikes in Syria cannot succeed without ground forces.

In a Question that I tabled yesterday, I asked the Minister to give us his assessment of the statement by General Sir Richard Shirreff that even a force of that size-of 70,000-would be incapable of liberating a city of 350,000 people such as Raqqa. On this question hangs the just war principle of “probability of success.” It also begs the post-Iraq question which hangs over the debate: what plan is in place for the aftermath once the bombing is over? What is the end game? I ask the Minister to address these specific questions.

To express doubt or scepticism is not to be confused with either appeasement or an unwillingness to fight.

6.22 pm
 
December 16th 2015
 
Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):⁠
 
My Lords, both the noble Baroness, and the Statement, rightly referred to the terrible depredations occurring in Syria and the egregious violations of human rights. Earlier today, in a Written reply to me, the noble Baroness stated:
 
“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.
 
Will the noble Baroness reflect on that reply and reconsider the Government’s position, and at least open discussions with the International Criminal Court? If the difference that marks us out from Daesh and those involved in these atrocities is that we believe in upholding the rule of law, is it not important to emphasise that a Nuremberg moment will come for those responsible for the mass graves—she may have seen them when she visited Sinjar recently—where Yazidi women who had been raped were then killed, and the other examples of beheadings, crucifixions and the many atrocities which were outlined in our recent debate in your Lordships’ House? One day, all that must have a day of reckoning.
 
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:⁠
 
My Lords, first, I should make it clear that I was not close to Sinjar itself. I was in Erbil when the assault was launched. I would like to make that clear. With regard to genocide, as I have mentioned before, we condemn utterly those who carry out mass killings. There is no doubt about that. There is also the fact that it is for courts to determine whether that falls within the legal definition of genocide. We will continue to monitor exactly how the ICC is dealing with these cases, or not. I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward. However, I will check whether there has been any change to that position. I have made it clear in the work that I have done on preventing sexual violence in conflict that we must not tolerate impunity, and therefore, if the ICC is unable to act, I hope that we can work throughout the international community to find another way of providing justice to those who have suffered at the hands of Daesh—the Yazidis, the Syriacs and the other small communities forming the component parts across Iraq and Syria—because all of them deserve our respect and help.
 

 Christians Will Disappear Completely From Iraq Within Five Years, Prince Charles Warns
By Tom Batchelor – 18th December
http://www.express.co.uk
Prince Charles talks to Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, left, of the Syrian Orthodox Church.The Prince of Wales described the protection of the Christian faith in the region as the “greatest challenge we face”.
Around 250,000 Christians are still in Iraq but 100,000 of these have been displaced by fighting and the threat from Islamic State. Thousands more have fled the country – and neighbouring Syria – as ISIS continues its bloody terror campaign against those unwilling to pledge loyalty to the death cult.
Charles told a gathering of UK-based clerics that “emergency help” was needed to avert the disaster. Speaking at Archbishop House in central London about the threat to Christians in the Middle East he said: “Their suffering is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth. “In fact according to Aid to the Church in Need, which is a truly remarkable organisation, Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within five years unless emergency help is provided on a greatly increased scale at an international level.
“This affects us all, consequently the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations.”

His Beatitude Raphael Sako of the Chaldaean Catholic Church and Patriach of Babylon then spoke. He had said at an earlier conference: “We sometimes wonder if they kill all of us, what would be the reaction of Christians in the west? Would they do something then?”

Before the collapse of the old regime in Syria, there were 1.4 million Christians. There are now 400,000.

120,000 Christians have been uprooted from their motherland in Mosul or from Nineveh
 

By Nadine Maenza and Tina Ramirez: 6th December.

http://dailysignal.com

The intent of the Islamic State (ISIS) is to eradicate all Christians from their self-declared “caliphate.” This past May, ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a video that made very clear their intent to destroy individuals who self-identify as Christians through whatever means possible, by death or forced removal. He stated that “coexistence with Jews and Christians” is impossible according to the Quran.
 
When ISIS entered northern Iraq and secured the city of Mosul in June 2014, Christians were a primary target. Theywere removed from public positions and cut off from public services and rations; within a month, they were given an ultimatum to “convert, pay the jizya tax, or die.”
 
ISIS’ intent was to bring about “conditions of life” intended to “destroy” the population–if not by killing them, then by making it impossible to remain in the region as Christians. In 24 hours, the entire Christian population of Mosul had fled their homes. After 1,600 years of Christianity in Mosul, there are no Christians left.
 
ISIS confiscated everything belonging to Christians; they left with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. After the Christians were gone, ISIS began to destroy any trace of Christian history in the area. Churches and monasteries were confiscated, demolished, or turned into mosques.
 
After forcing Christians from Mosul, ISIS seized nearby Qaraqosh, which had the largest Christian population in Iraq. ISIS took the residents who did not flee and split them up on different buses, sending some out of the territory and “saving” some of the women for themselves.
 
We met Aida Hana Noah, whose 3-year-old daughter, Christina, was ripped from her arms while on a bus preparing to depart. She is now being raised as a Muslim in ISIS territory. We met and prayed with Aida for Christina’s safe return.
The genocide Christians are experiencing in Iraq and Syria needs to be identified as such so we can rally the international community to work together to stop the violence, provide support for the victims, and prepare to prosecute the perpetrators for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Without the genocide designation, Christians in Iraq and Syria will not have access to the appropriate level of justice.
 
 
In 2001, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in The Atlantic that “[a] determination of genocide turns not on the numbers killed, which is always difficult to ascertain at a time of crisis, but on the perpetrators’ intent.”
Why, then, is the Obama administration about to exclude Christians or other religious communities from the declaration of genocide in Iraq and Syria?
 
Just last week, the State Department shared with us its plans to designate only Yazidis as victims of genocide.
Even President Barack Obama’s own ambassador at large for international religious freedom, David Saperstein, seems convinced that Christians are facing genocide in the region. He told The New York Times in June, “Everyone has seen the forced conversions, crucifixions and beheadings. To see these communities, primarily Christians, but also the Yezidis and others, persecuted in such large numbers is deeply alarming.”
 
The Yazidi Persecution: Our organization, Hardwired, has a deep connection with the Yazidi community and agrees that ISIS has targeted them in horrific ways. In September, we brought a young Yazidi woman, “Bazi,” to the United States to tell of the atrocities Yazidis have endured and to raise awareness of the 3,000 girls and women still enslaved by ISIS.
 
Our hearts were heavy hearing her testimony to Congress of the day in August 2014 that ISIS invaded her village in Sinjar. They shot over 600 men and older boys (including 3 of Bazi’s brothers and her father), killed the older women (her mother being one of them), and eventually sold the girls and women to ISIS fighters as sex slaves. The young boys were forced to convert to Islam and prepared to fight for the Islamic militants.
 
Bazi’s story was unique because she was purchased by–and escaped from–an American fighting for ISIS, but other Yazidis and Christians experienced similar atrocities in Iraq and Syria.

U.N. Definition of a Genocide

Article II of the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention says, “Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
 
The administration is choosing to take a very narrow view of the legal definition of genocide, seeking a single event, such as the massacre in Sinjar, to establish whether genocide has occurred. But the genocidal destruction of a group does not require that ISIS kill or cause death.
 
Each genocide, beginning with the Semele Genocide against Christians in Iraq in 1933, has brought this community closer to the point of extinction. If we ignore it now, this will likely be the death knell for Chaldean and Assyrian Christians in Iraq and Syria.
 
Christians in Iraq have dropped from 1.5 million just a decade ago to as low as 260,000. Over a thousand Christians have been abducted and murdered in around Aleppo in Syria, with ISIS holding 200-400 as hostages for ransom.
 
A video recently showed the murder of three of those hostages, with the promise of additional executions to come.
While some in the administration have made the case that at least Christians have the option to stay and pay a “jizya” tax for being a non-Muslim, such measures are clearly intended to force Christians to convert or leave.
 
Paying this tax is not a feasible option without work, government rations, or their hard-earned savings–all of which were confiscated. ISIS militants continue to raise the price until the Christian can no longer pay, and then they demand land or the women in the family.
 
The forced expulsion of Christians from northern Iraq and Syria, as well as the kidnapping, rape, forced conversion, and brutal crucifixions and beheadings of some in Syria, has caused grievous harm to the Christians in the region. Turkmen, Shabak, Kaka’i, and even Shi’a Muslims have faced genocide at the hands of ISIS as well. It cannot be ignored. Yet that is what the administration appears ready to do.
 
Yet that is what the administration appears ready to do Current U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice said after the Clinton administration failed to intervene during the Rwanda genocide, “I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
We believe that the time has come for dramatic action to protect and uphold the religious freedom of Christians, Yazidis, and all other persecuted religious communities in Iraq and Syria.
 
ISIS’ Genocide Against Christians Must Be Recognized Before Christianity Is Eradicated, EU Politician Says 
November 30, 2015 –
ankawa.comnews
 
Christian Chierlos, 2 years old, looks at his mother as he arrives with members of his family from Beirut, in Le Mans, France, October 2, 2015.
A Syrian Christian family targeted by a September bomb attack in Damascus flew into Paris on Friday to start a new life, roughly a year after they requested entry visas from the French authorities.
A European Parliamentarian is working on a resolution calling on EU members to recognize that the Islamic State terror group is committing genocide against Christians and other minorities, and act upon that reality.
Lars Adaktusson of the Christian Democrats party in Sweden wrote in an op-ed published by Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that there is clear evidence IS wants to eradicate all Christians from the territory it has captured across Iraq and Syria. …
He argued that European countries and the U.N. Security Council often take too long to acknowledge mass atrocities around the world as a genocide, and warned that if there is a lack of action from world leaders, Christians in the Middle East “will only be found in history books.”
“To everyone that refuses to accept the persecution of Christians and Yazidi groups it is now time to demand action and get support from those that are in fact watching and raising their voices,” Adaktusson continued. “The only reasonable step now is that Sweden’s and Europe’s decision makers accept the facts and immediately recognize that the Islamic State are committing genocide,” he said.

Church in Syria Faces ‘suicidal Choice’, Says Archbishop
http://www.catholicherald.co.uk
28th November

The Church in Syria faces a “suicidal choice” of either exile or “living under the shadow of Islam”, one of Syria’s leading clerics has said. In his pre-Christmas letter Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus spoke of the exodus of Christians from the country, much of which is under the control of Islamist groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. He also spoke about the sense of hopelessness that pervades the country as it approaches its fifth Christmas at war.
In a letter the archbishop wrote that: “Since 2003 (the Iraq war) and especially since 2011 (Arab spring) the exodus of Christians from the east increases. Some reports give only ten years for the page to turn concerning Christianity in the Middle East. This seems to be a pessimistic view, but observed experience shows an alarming and growing emigration.
“The subject of daily discussions is how to leave. Go anywhere and in any way, even if it means taking dangerous risks. A family just sent their twelve-year-old son away with a caravan of fugitives. A twelve-year-old child has not returned. Will he later be able to invite his family to join him? Will he find a safe place? Given the military stalemate, an increasingly distant peace, and to avoid Military Service, in order to escape an absurd war that has lasted too long, young people are the greatest number of those who leave.
“What is the future a Church without young people? It is the fatal end of apostolic Christianity in a Biblical Land which becomes a hostage of violence and intolerance in the name of a radical faith that neither supports pluralism nor accepts differences.”
He said that the options facing Christians in the Middle East was to either leave, form alliances with other minorities to protect “against the domination of an ‘intolerant’ Islam”, seek protecting from the authorities or “Accept living under the shadow of Islam and continue a life full of difficulties and challenges.”
He added: “The Christians of the East face an almost suicidal choice. Living under the shadow of Islam remains a choice quite difficult to assume. Living in the shadow of Islam requires a return to the early centuries of theChurch, which highlights the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth.
 

US Secretary John Kerry gets broad coalition appeal: Syrian and Iraqi Christians face Genocide.
Nina Shea – 10 December 2015.
An important left-right, ecumenical coalition letter was sent on Dec. 4 to US Sec. of State John Kerry, requesting a meeting to brief him about genocide confronting Iraq and Syria’s Christian communities.  Signatories represented a broad range of distinguished religious leaders and scholars (see below).   Kirsten Powers’ USA Today column and other media publicized the letter.
Hudson International Religious Freedom Center’s Nina Shea organized the initiative in response to reports that the State Department will soon issue a formal statement that Yazidis (but not Christians) face genocide at the hands of ISIS. 
The letter referred to extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets the definition of genocide. They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, sexual enslavement and systematic rape of girls and women, forcible conversions to Islam, destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and theft of lands and wealth. We will also present ISIS’ own, public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.
The letter also described and appended to Congressional testimony on December 9 by Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson. His testimony provided examples of genocide as researched by Shea. 
It also attested to the fact that Middle Eastern Christians avoid UN refugee camps due to fear of extremist violence inside them.
And, that the US disproportionately excludes Christians and other vulnerable minorities from its Syrian refugee resettlement program as a result of relying on the UNHCR for its Syrian refugee referrals.
 
 
 
 

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/427044/christians-isis-genocide-obama-administration
 

Obama Administration Poised to Exclude Christians from ISIS Genocide Determination
By Nina Shea — November 13, 2015
A report by a renowned journalist states that Christians are to be excluded from an impending official United States government declaration of ISIS genocide. If true, it would reflect a familiar pattern within the administration of a politically correct bias that views Christians — even non-Western congregations such as those in Iraq and Syria — never as victims, but always as Inquisition-style oppressors. (That a State Department genocide designation for ISIS may be imminent was acknowledged last week in congressional testimony, by Ambassador Anne Patterson, the assistant secretary of the State Department’s Near East Bureau.)
Yazidis, according to the story by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, are going to be officially recognized as genocide victims, and rightly so. Yet, Christians, who are also among the most vulnerable religious minority groups that have been deliberately and mercilessly targeted for eradication by ISIS, are not. This is not an academic matter. A genocide designation would have significant policy implications for American efforts to restore property and lands taken from the minority groups and for offers of aid, asylum, and other protections to such victims. Worse, it would mean that, under the Genocide Convention, the United States and other governments would not be bound to act to suppress or even prevent the genocide of these Christians.
An unnamed State Department official was quoted by Isikoff saying that only the attacks on Yazidis have made “the high bar” of the genocide standard and pointed to the mass killing of 1,000 Yazidi men and the enslavement of thousands of Yazidi women and girls. Yet to propose that Christians have been simply driven off their land, and have not suffered similar fates is deeply misinformed. In fact, the last Christians to pray in the language spoken by Jesus are also being deliberately targeted for extinction by equally brutal measures.
Christians have been executed by the thousands, Christian women and girls are vulnerable to sexual enslavement, many of their clergy have been assassinated, and their churches and ancient monasteries demolished or desecrated. They have been systematically stripped of all their wealth and those too elderly or sick to flee ISIS-controlled territory have been forcibly converted to Islam or killed, such as an 80-year-old woman who was burned to death for refusing to abide by ISIS religious rules. Pope Francis pronounced their suffering to be “genocide” in July. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a broad array of other churches have done so, as well. Analysis from an office of the Holocaust Museum apparently relied on by the State Department asserting that ISIS protects Christians in exchange for jizya, an Islamic tax for “People of the Book,” is simply not grounded in fact.
ISIS atrocities against Christians became public in June 2014 when the jihadists stamped Christian homes in Mosul with the red letter N for “Nazarene” and began enforcing its “convert or die” policy. And they continue. Recently the Melkite Catholic bishop of Aleppo reported that 1,000 Christians have been kidnapped and murdered in his city alone, including two Orthodox bishops. In September, ISIS executed, on videotape, three Assyrian Christian men and threatened to do the same to 200 more being held captive by the terrorist group. Recent reports by an American Christian aid group state that several Christians who refused to renounce their faith were raped, beheaded, or crucified a few months ago.
Christian women and girls are also enslaved and sexually abused. Three Christian females sold in ISIS slave markets were profiled in a New York Times Magazine report last summer. ISIS rules allow Christian sabaya, that is, their sexual enslavement. Its Dabiq magazine explicitly approved the enslavement of Christian girls in Nigeria, and the jihadist group posted prices for Christian, as well as Yazidi, female slaves in Raqqa. 
In recent weeks, the stalwart Knights of Columbus has been placing emotionally searing ads in Politico and elsewhere advocating the passage of House Resolution 75: 
This bipartisan bill was initiated by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R., Neb.) and Representative Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) to declare that genocide is being faced by Christians, Yazidis, and other vulnerable groups. The ads — depicting a mother and child who are the very personifications of grief against a landscape of ISIS destruction — might strike a nerve within the Obama administration. But as of now, the administration looks poised to preempt the bill and render a grave injustice to Iraq and Syria’s suffering Christians.
— Nina Shea is the director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom
 
 

From: Nina Shea
Sent: 10 December 2015 16:29
To: Nina Shea
Subject: Sec. Kerry gets broad coalition appeal: Syrian and Iraqi Christians face Genocide, too.

An important left-right, ecumenical coalition letter  was sent on Dec. 4 to US Sec. of State John Kerry, requesting a meeting to brief him about genocide confronting Iraq and Syria’s Christian communities.  Signatories represented a broad range of distinguished religious leaders and scholars, listed below. 
 
Hudson International Religious Freedom Center’s Nina Shea organized the initiative. It responded to reports that the State Department will soon issue a formal statement that Yazidis – but not Christians – face ISIS genocide.  The letter stated:
 
We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other
vulnerable minorities, meets this definition. They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church
leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria;
its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible
conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and
its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. We will also present ISIS’ own, public
statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate
Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.
 
Kirsten Powers’ USA Today column and other media publicized the letter.
 
It was also described and appended to Congressional testimony on December 9 by Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson. His testimony provided examples of such genocide researched by Shea.  It also attested to the fact that Middle Eastern Christians avoid UN refugee camps due to fear of extremist violence inside them; and, moreover, that the US disproportionately excludes Christians and other vulnerable minorities from its Syrian refugee resettlement program as a result of relying on the UNHCR for its Syrian refugee referrals.
 
SIGNERS OF DEC. 4 APPEAL TO SEC. KERRY
 
Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
 
His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian
Ecumenical Director and Legate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
 
Robert A. Destro
Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America
 
Most Reverend Bishop Julian Dobbs
Missionary Bishop of Convocation of Anglicans in North America
 
Dr. Thomas F. Farr
Director Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University
 
Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University
 
Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon
Harvard Law School
 
Aram Hamparian
Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America
 
Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D.
President, Council For Christian Colleges & Universities
 
Harry R. Jackson, Jr.
Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, International Communion of Evangelical Churches
 
Most Reverend Sarhad Y. Jammo
Chaldean Bishop of Western U.S.A.
 
Philip Jenkins
Distinguished Professor of History, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University
 
Brian Katulis
Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
 
Rev. Benedict Kiely
Founder, http://www.Nasarean.org
 
The Very Reverend James A. Kowalski
Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
 
Most Reverend Gregory Mansour
Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
 
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
 
Rev. Johnnie Moore
President, The KAIROS Company
Author, Defying ISIS
 
Russell Moore
President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
 
Mark L. Movsesian
Frederick A. Whitney Professor and Director, Center for Law and Religion
St. John’s University School of Law
 
Archbishop Oshagan
Prelate, Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern)
 
Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou
Assoc. Prof. of Conflict Resolution, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University
 
Rev. Bob Roberts, Jr.
Senior Pastor, NorthWood Church, Keller, TX
 
Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez
President, NHCLC/CONELA, Hispanic Evangelical Association
 
Nina Shea
Director and Senior Scholar, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute
 
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
President, Lantos Foundation
 
Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides
Ecumenical & Interfaith Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
 
Frank Wolf
Distinguished Senior Fellow of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative;
Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Baylor University
 
Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent, Assemblies of God, USA
 
Cardinal Donald Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

————————————————————-

Yezidi Leader Tells Congress: ‘We Are Being Burned Alive’
By Zachary Leshin
http://www.cnsnews.com
Posted 2015-12-11 21:18 GMT
Chaldean and Yezidi leaders described the genocide of their people at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to members of Congress Wednesday at a hearing on assisting victims of ISIS.
“Because we are not Muslims, and because our path is the path of peace… we are being burned alive,” Mirza Ismail, chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International, told members of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
Ismail went on to describe the desperate plight of the Yezidis, an indigenous ethno-religious group from Kurdistan who are being targeted by ISIS because they are not Muslim.
“There are thousands of young Yezidi women, girls, and even children, who as I speak have been enslaved and forced into sexual slavery. These girls are subjected to daily, multiple rapes by ISIS monsters,” he testified.
“According to many escaped women and girls whom I talked to in Northern Iraq, the abducted Yezidis, mostly women and children, number over 7,000. Some of those women and girls have had to watch 7-, 8-, and 9-year-old children bleed to death before their eyes, after being raped by ISIS militia multiple times a day,” said Ismail.
“I met mothers, whose children were torn from them by ISIS. These same mothers came to plead for the return of their children, only to be informed, that they, the mothers, had been fed the flesh of their own children by ISIS. Children murdered, then fed to their own mothers.
“ISIS militia have burned many Yezidi girls alive for refusing to convert and marry ISIS men. Young Yezidi boys are being trained to be jihadists and suicide bombers. All of our temples in the ISIS controlled area are exploded and destroyed.
“The entire Yezidi population was displaced in less than one day on August 3, 2014, in Sinjar. The Yezidis and Chaldo-Assyrian Christians face this genocide together.
“Why? Again, because we are not Muslims, and because our path is the path of peace. For this, we are being burned alive. For living as men and women of peace.
“What I have just recounted to you, what has happened to the Yezidis and Chaldo-Assyrian Christians in Sinjar and in Nineveh Plain and other minorities is nothing less than genocide, according to the UN definition of genocide,” Ismail said.
Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Chaldean Catholic Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit told Congress that Iraqi Christians “are being victimized by the Obama administration not recognizing their suffering” and their “slow and perpetual genocide.”
“It is important to recognize that the atrocities in Iraq began as early as 2005. This preceded ISIS,” the bishop testified at the hearing.
“Christians and other minorities in Iraq have experienced their own slow and perpetual genocide. I wish to note that the Obama administration, including President Obama himself, have neglected to mention that the ISIS atrocities were committed against Christians,” he said.
“There are more than 150,000 Iraqi Christians who are now displaced in northern Iraq or are refugees in other countries such as approximately 35,000 in Jordan, 60,000 in Lebanon, 30,000 in Turkey who are being victimized by the Obama administration in not recognizing their suffering,” Bishop Kalabat continued.
“There are countless Christian villages in Syria who have been taken over by ISIS and have encountered genocide and the Obama administration again refuses to recognize their plight.”
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chair of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, reminded the committee of legislation he introduced “that is aimed specifically at those people who have been targeted for genocide.”

————-

 

Seimas of the Republic of lithuania

 

RESOLUTION

ON THE GENOCIDE OF CHRISTIANS AND OTHER RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

 

15 December 2015    No XII-2177

Vilnius

 

 

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

having regard to:

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stating that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance; the United Nations Human Rights Committee believes that pursuant to the principle of freedom of religion and belief, the protection of all beliefs, including theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, should be ensured;

United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution No 28/34 of 7 April 2015 defining ‘complex situations that might lead to genocide’, recognisable from ‘possible warning signs […] such as the existence of groups at risk, the massive, serious and systematic violation of human rights, the resurgence of systematic discrimination and the prevalence of expressions of hate speech targeting persons belonging to national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, especially if they are uttered in the context of an actual or potential outbreak of violence’ and ‘condemning impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and emphasizing the responsibility of States to comply with their obligations under relevant international instruments to end impunity and, to that end, to thoroughly investigate and prosecute persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other massive, serious or systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in order to avoid their recurrence and to seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation’;

The European Parliament Resolution of 10 October 2013 on recent cases of violence and persecution against Christians, notably in Maaloula (Syria), Peshawar (Pakistan) and the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini (Iran) (2013/2872(RSP)); the European Parliament Resolution of 12 March 2015 on recent attacks and abductions by Da’esh in the Middle East, notably of Assyrians (2015/2599(RSP)); the European Parliament Resolution of 28 April 2015 on the persecution of Christians around the world, in relation to the killing of students in Kenya by terror group Al-Shabaab (2015/2661 (RSP)), which bring to the foreground the cases of killing and persecution on religious grounds in the Middle East, North Africa and other countries;

United Nations General Assembly Resolution No 69/323 of 11 September 2015 proclaiming 9 December as the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of This Crime;

stating that:

for thousands of years, Christians of the Middle East and North Africa and other religious minorities have been an integral part of the region’s culture;

the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (Da’esh) and other extremist militant groups in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, and North Africa are currently exerting systematic violence against Christians and representatives of other religious minorities, who have been the target of such violence already since 2003, and millions of representatives of such minorities have been forced to leave their ancestral home and to become refugees;

Christians and other religious minorities in this region were and are being killed and kidnapped, suffered and continue to suffer serious bodily and mental harm, also sexual slavery and other forms of violence, and that all of this is done consciously and on purpose, resulting in a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted in Paris on 9 December 1948 (hereinafter: the ‘Convention’);

such atrocities are pursued with a specific goal, namely, to eradicate and to expel from the region Christians and other religious minorities, destroy their cultural heritage, thus resulting in a breach of the Convention;

genocide is a crime under international law for which the persons committing it are punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals, as stipulated in Article 4 of the Convention;

Article 1 of the Convention emphasises that ‘the Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.’;

Article 2 of the Convention specifies that ‘in the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.’;

Article 3 of the Convention establishes that ‘the following acts shall be punishable:

  • (a) Genocide;
  • (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
  • (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  • (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
  • (e) Complicity in genocide.’;

on 10 July 2015 Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, announced that Christians of the Middle East are suffering genocide which needs to be ‘denounced. In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide – and I stress the word genocide – is taking place, and it must end.’;

in its report of 27 March 2015 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that ‘ethnic and religious groups targeted by ISIL include Yezidis, Christians, Turkmen, Sabea-Mandeans, Kaka’e, Kurds and Shia’ and that, in the light of reliable information about the acts of violence perpetrated against civilians because of their affiliation to an ethnic or religious group, ‘it is reasonable to conclude that some of those incidents may constitute genocide. Other incidents may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes.’,

states that atrocities against Christians and representatives of other religious minorities which are targeted in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, and North Africa on religious grounds only may be considered as genocide and, by this Resolution, is treated as the crime of genocide under international law;

reminds all the Contracting Parties to the Convention, particularly those states whose governments and citizens in one way or another are engaged in and support genocide, of their legal obligations under the Convention;

draws governments’ and international organisations’ attention to the fact that crimes against humanity perpetrated on religious grounds and war crimes which can be treated as the crime of genocide must be condemned;

calls on the United Nations and the United Nations Secretary-General to take clear political leadership and recognise the atrocities being committed in the Middle East and North Africa as the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes;

invites the United Nations Member States, in particular members of the African Union, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, to support this Resolution, take measures to prevent further conduct of criminal persecution that may be treated as genocide and cooperate in developing international and national tribunals to punish persons responsible for genocide and in ensuring their effective functioning;

expresses gratitude to the governments of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Lebanon and other states for their efforts to shelter and protect Christians and other religious minorities until they can safely return to their homes in Iraq and Syria;

emphasizes that Christians and other religious minorities have the right to safe and stable life on the historic lands of their ancestors and practice of their faith without fear of persecution, deportation or death.

 

 

 

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS                                      LORETA GRAUŽINIENĖ

————————————————————

Testimony of

Mr. Carl A. Anderson Supreme Knight Knights of Columbus

Before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health,

Global Human Rights and International Organizations

of the House Foreign Affairs Committee

At a hearing titled

Fulfilling the Humanitarian Imperative: Assisting Victims of ISIS Violence

 

December 9, 2015

 

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee and discuss the Knights of Columbus humanitarian aid programs. Over the course of the past year, our programs have helped feed, heal, shelter and educate many thousands of desperate Christians in church-run camps or other private places of refuge in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. We have established a donation and news web portal titled Christiansatrisk.org and have to date donated over $5 million in direct aid to Christians and other persecuted minorities in the region. We have partnered with other organizations in the region, including Catholic Relief Services, Aid to the Church in Need, Caritas, and local dioceses in Iraq and Syria.

 

Our assistance has taken the form of food, shelter, education and medical assistance. At times it has required exceptional care: for example, several weeks ago we helped Katreena, a very sick 15 year-old Iraqi girl by organizing her airlift from a displaced persons camp in Erbil, Kurdistan. Her life was saved when she was brought to a New England hospital for treatment for numerous issues that could not adequately be addressed in Iraq.

 

Through this humanitarian work in the Middle East we have made three basic observations and four recommendations bearing on U.S. human rights and refugee policy that I would like to focus on in my testimony today. In the interests of time, I will summarize them briefly at the outset:

 

  1. The Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, along with those of other vulnerable religious minorities, are suffering genocide that continues to the present time. We recommend, therefore, that Congress swiftly adopt House Concurrent Resolution 75, which names and decries the ongoing “genocide” against Christians and other vulnerable minorities in Iraq and Syria. Introduced by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, this resolution has 153 cosponsors and a similar resolution is soon to be introduced in the Senate.
  2. We further recommend that the U.S. State Department publicly acknowledge that genocide is taking place against the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, including in its reportedly impending statement on genocide that, according to reports, refers only to Nineveh’s Yazidi community. The United States is rightly viewed as the world’s leading defender of vulnerable minorities, and it is critically important that the State Department consider the best available evidence before issuing a statement that would exclude Christians. An official government declaration of genocide is an opportunity to bring America’s religious communities together to pursue the truth, to support victims, and to bear witness to the noble principle of “Never Again.” Last week the Knights of Columbus sent an urgent letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for an opportunity to brief him about this genocide. This letter was signed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and two dozen other religious leaders and scholars from across the political spectrum and from diverse Orthodox, Protestant, Mormon, as well as Catholic, faith traditions. A copy of the letter is attached to this testimony as an addendum.
  1. The Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, along with those of other vulnerable religious minorities, fear taking shelter in the camps of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because of religiously motivated violence and intimidation inside the camps. We recommend that the United States insist on proper security inside the camps and identify ways to ensure that Christians and other vulnerable minorities from Iraq and Syria are not subject to violence inside UNHCR facilities, including the possibility of providing separate facilities for minorities and hiring professional staff that would include members of the minority communities. The U.S. should require the UNHCR to gather and make public, along with its other data, the religious affiliation of all the refugees it serves. To ignore reports of humanitarian problems, without prompt investigation and corrective action, is itself an injustice.
  2. Syrian Christians and other vulnerable minorities are disproportionately excluded from the U.S. Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program due to reliance on a functionally discriminatory UNHCR program. We recommend that the U.S. government take immediate action to implement its stated policy of “prioritizing” the resettlement of vulnerable minorities, including Christians. In addition, we recommend that the U.S. government end its sole reliance on the UNHCR for refugee referrals and engage private contractors to identify, document and refer Christian, Yazidi and other vulnerable minority refugees from Syria and Iraq who are in need of resettlement.

 

A Genocide Targeting the Christians

 

The near-complete dependency of these refugees on our help and that of other private charities to meet their essential needs will continue for the foreseeable future.  Fear of being slaughtered or enslaved for their faith prevents them from returning home.  Like the region’s other refugee communities, the vulnerable Christian minority is striving to survive devastating conflicts – in which, it should be noted, the Christian communities have not taken up arms for any side.  In addition, like the Jews in Nazi Germany, these Christians are escaping genocide.  They are being specifically targeted because they put their faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Pope Francis has been in the forefront in calling attention to this ongoing attempt at extermination. About these Christians, he declared that “a form of genocide — and I stress the word ‘genocide’ — is taking place, and it must end.”[1]  The Knights of Columbus believes this is the proper name for what has been confronting these churches and, in our media advocacy campaign, we have urged others – including this Congress – to also recognize that these and other vulnerable minorities from the killing fields of Iraq and Syria are suffering genocide, the most egregious of human rights transgressions.

 

Last week, the Knights of Columbus sent an urgent letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for an opportunity to brief him about this genocide. This letter was signed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and two dozen other religious leaders and scholars from across the political spectrum and from diverse Orthodox, Protestant, Mormon, as well as Catholic, faith traditions. These signatories united in response to reports that the State Department will soon issue a statement on genocide in the region that, while rightly providing a focus on the Yazidi community, unjustifiably excludes the Christians. A copy of this letter is attached to this testimony as an addendum.

 

Our coalition’s letter of December 4th observes that the Genocide Convention defines genocide as killing and certain other acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”  As we then explained:

 

We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition.  They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.  We will also present ISIS’ own, public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State.”

 

 

Three days after our letter to Secretary of State Kerry, the independent United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a statement calling upon the U.S. government to designate Christians and other religious minorities of Iraq and Syria as victims of genocide.[2] But we have not received any response from Secretary Kerry or others with the State Department.

 

 

We emphasize, the genocidal attacks against Christians began years before ISIS emerged from Al Qaeda in Iraq and before the summer of 2014, when ISIS began stamping Christian homes in Mosul for confiscation with the red letter “N” for “Nazarene.”[3] In March 2007, the leader of the group that would spawn ISIS officially articulated the jihadist intent to kill Christians as legitimate targets of war: “We find that the sects of the People of the Book and others from the Sabians and so in the State of Islam today are people of war who qualify for no protection, for they have transgressed against whatever they agreed to in many countless ways, and if they want peace and security then they must start a new era with the State of Islam according to (Caliph) Omar’s stipulations [the historic “Covenant” of Caliph Omar with Christians] that they have annulled.” The Knights of Columbus interviewed Fr. Douglas Bazi, who currently runs a Church-based refugee camp in Erbil. Fr. Bazi was himself kidnapped and tortured by Islamic extremists in 2009 even prior to the current insurgency. Fr. Bazi has said, “Genocide is an easy word compared to what is happening to my people.”[4]

 

The attacks against Christians continue to the present day, as shown in just a few examples which follow:

 

  • In October 2015, ISIS released a video of the point-blank execution in the previous month of three Assyrian Christian men in orange jumpsuits.  They were from the group of some 250 hostages taken captive in February 2015 from undefended Christian villages along Syria’s Khabour river.  ISIS is threatening to execute others from the group unless a staggering $10 million ransom is paid. Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart stated in Fall 2015 that some one thousand Christians had been kidnapped and murdered in his city of Aleppo, alone. Since 2003, so many thousands of Iraqi and Syrian Christians have been held hostage for ransom that Christians there are sometimes referred to as “currency” and such ransoms are cited by experts as a major source of ISIS’ revenues.  One victim was Chaldean priest Douglas Bazi, featured in our recent television commercial aired on Fox, who now manages Erbil’s Mar Elia camp for 100 displaced Christian families. Like many others, Fr. Bazi was severely tortured while a captive.  On July 10, 2015, the Vatican press Fides reported that, after their families pay ransoms of up to $50,000, Christian hostages in Baghdad are now being killed instead of freed.

 

  • The US-based Christian Aid Mission reported on its website the rape, beheading and crucifixion on August 28 in villages outside Aleppo, of eleven Christian preachers, including the 12-year-old son of one of them, and two women, because they refused to renounce their faith. These were evangelical Christians converted from Islam, but many Catholics and Orthodox have also suffered horrific ordeals.  At least three Christians have been kidnapped and sold in a Mosul slave market and remain enslaved, including three year-old Christina Noah, whose mother was interviewed by former Congressman Frank Wolf.  ISIS explicitly announced its approval of the sexual enslavement of Christian women and girls in its magazine Dabiq. Numerous clergy including a Catholic bishop in Mosul and two Orthodox bishops in Aleppo, have been assassinated simply for their faithfulness. The pectoral cross of one Iraqi Chaldean Catholic priest, Father Ragheed Ganni, whose throat was slit by Islamic radicals in 2007 when he refused to close his church in Mosul, is now sometimes worn by Pope Francis.

 

  • On July 6, 2015, ISIS blew up the historic 1,000-year old church in Mosul known as the Church of the Mother of Perpetual Help. In mid-2015, Mosul’s historic St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was converted into a mosque, with its cross removed and gold dome painted black. St. Ephrem’s Cathedral, the seat of the Syrian Orthodox archdiocese, was turned into the Mosque of the Mujahideen, reported the Vatican around the same time. In March 2015, ISIS tweeted photos showing the group blowing up the 4th century Mar Behnam Monastery in Qaraqosh, Nineveh. The monastery was known to contain one of the most valuable Syriac libraries in Iraq. Photos also showed the group’s bombing of the tombs of Saint Behnam and Saint Sarah, both believed by the faithful to have been converted to Christianity by Saint Matthew. The 5th century Mar Elian monastery in Qaryatain was bulldozed by ISIS in August. ISIS’s destruction of churches, monasteries and convents in the territory it controls has been systematic.  But this pattern began a decade before and included the widely publicized attack on Our Lady of Perpetual Help (also called Our Lady of Salvation), a Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad, in October 2010; it was filled with worshippers celebrating holy Mass, killing about 50 of them, including two priests.  In addition to eradicating Christian people, the extremists’ goal is to erase every trace of Christianity’s two thousand year old presence.

 

Untold numbers of other atrocities have been documented by a variety of Church and private sources. In the interest of time, I provide only these illustrative few.

 

We are aware that one rationale for excluding Christians is that, unlike Yazidis, ISIS gives Christians a “choice”: they can convert to Islam or pay an Islamic tax (jizya), rather than being killed or enslaved. The implication is that ISIS abides by traditional Islamic Sharia, under which other “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) pay a tax in exchange for protection by their Muslim rulers.  As we wrote to Secretary Kerry and as the facts show, this is emphatically not the case.

 

Many times the payment of jizya is not presented as an option for these Christians. In the instances where the jizya has been exacted, it has failed to ensure that the Christians could live as Christians, that they were protected from rival jihadists or even other members of ISIS, or that the amount of the payment was not raised over time until it became an impossible sum, causing the family’s home and even children to be confiscated and the adults killed or forced to become Muslims. A Dutch journalist reported just such an incident in Idlib in 2013 when a number of Christian families began to pay the jizya but, after the amount demanded kept increasing over several months, some Christians decided to flee, leaving behind their farms and property, while others who could not pay or escape were forced to convert to Islam. In the Christian valley outside Homs, an Orthodox priest reported that those who couldn’t pay the jizya and who were not able to flee were killed. In some places, ISIS rulers reportedly demand that the jizya be paid in gold, a tax that would be impossible to sustain.  Middle East scholar and, until earlier this year, the coordinator of U.S. government ideological counterterrorism messaging, Alberto Fernandez, writing in a study for MEMRI[5], noted the absence of any open church or evidence of Christian life in Raqqa, where the jizya contract was reportedly drawn up between ISIS and local Christians. He found ISIS jizya to be “a Salafi Caliphate publicity stunt.” It should be needless to state that being forced to convert to Islam, under penalty of death or sexual enslavement, is evidence of religious genocide, not an alternative to it.

 

Today any Christian who was not able to flee when ISIS took control of their area has been killed, taken captive, enslaved, or forced to live as a Muslim. There, no holy Masses or other forms of Christian worship are tolerated and its two thousand year old Christian culture and communities have been effectively eradicated.

 

Christians and Other Vulnerable Religious Minority Refugees Fear UNHCR Camps:

 

The aid of private charitable organizations such as the Knights of Columbus is essential because Iraqi and Syrian Christians and other displaced vulnerable minorities, while justifiably afraid of returning home, avoid seeking refuge in UNHCR camps. The overwhelming majority of Christian families are seeking shelter, food and medicine from Church-operated camps like Father Douglas Bazi’s Mar Elia camp, or living with relatives or in apartments and make-shift shelters in the slum areas of Amman and Beirut, apart from the UNHCR camps. They have no right to work, own property or drive a car in these areas and depend on support from local churches and a variety of international governmental and non-governmental sources. Far too little attention has been given to a disturbing reason for why Christians don’t seek shelter in UNHCR camps and its implications.

This pattern of avoiding the UN camps first became apparent in Iraqi Kurdistan when the Christians fled Mosul on June 10, 2014, and continues to hold true today for the displaced Christian minorities in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as in Kurdistan. Neither in the large UNHCR Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, which together shelter over 100,000 mostly Syrian refugees, or in its smaller encampments in Lebanon, did recent visitors find a single Christian refugee family sheltering there.

 

The United States government is the world’s most generous donor to the UNHCR and resettles more refugees from it “than all other resettlement countries combined,” according to the department’s Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration.[6] However, despite deep US investment in the UNHCR refugee program, our government has given scant focus to the consistent, region-wide, and frankly shocking pattern that the most vulnerable religious minority refugees overwhelmingly avoid the UNHCR camps. In fact, it has been largely silent about the matter and strangely lacking in curiosity about the underlying explanation. Its response has been virtually limited to a brief, unclassified official email statement which said, “many minority religious groups from Syria are urban refugees and have not entered the UN system.”[7]

 

The UNHCR, itself, seems to dodge the question, implying that it is unaware of any such issue. It is able to provide age and gender breakdowns but not religious affiliation of those in its camps, despite the fact that a well-founded fear of “religious persecution” is a fundamental issue for determining refugee status under international law and, given the intense religious persecution of the minorities, this should be one of the first questions asked of those seeking shelter in its camps. On December 2, a media report stated: “Queries sent to the UNHCR about the religious breakdown of refugees in its camps, and about Christians’ concerns about their safety, have yet to bring a response.”[8] A second query put to the UNHCR by a U.S. senate office also failed to receive a response.

 

The reason that the Christians and other vulnerable religious minorities stay away from UNHCR camps can be found in interviews with those who work with the minority refugees and others who’ve been inside the UNHCR camps. The UK’s Lord David Alton is one who has spoken out about this, stating last month that many minorities escaping Syria have either fled the UNHCR refugee camps or have never risked entering them “because they suffer attacks, inside the camps, by radical Islamists.”[9] He reported on the testimony of a witness in an ongoing British parliamentary investigation into this scandal as follows:

The House of Commons International Development Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the Syrian Refugee Crisis. At an evidence session recently, a witness, speaking on behalf of an organisation which works

in the region directly with refugees, gave testimony that “we are not aware of Christians being within UN registered camps” – the camps to which UK Aid makes a substantial funding contribution. The Committee was told that Christians avoid these camps – and therefore access to the support within

them – because of fear: “if your culture is different, you stand out and are more

of a target, which makes you nervous to go there.”

Lord Alton stated further:

Another witness in written evidence to the inquiry states, “Christians are generally not able to go to camps for fear of intimidation and risk…Because many Christians and other minority groups do not enter the camps due to fear of religious persecution, this would result in them being doubly disadvantaged as they will not have equal access to the scheme.” This double disadvantage refers to effective exclusion from the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme – after having already been driven away from their home towns or villages, often as a result of religious persecution – these refugees, surviving outside the UN camps, have no chance of being selected as some of the 20,000 refugees the UK has committed to welcome here. An Archbishop familiar with the region says that if they are outside the refugee camps “[t]he UN don’t really help these families.”

Hudson Institute’s international religious freedom scholar Nina Shea interviewed representatives of the Charlottesville, Virginia-based Christian Aid Mission, who visited the UNHCR camps in Jordan to bring food and medicine parcels and who found them to be “dangerous” places where ISIS, militias, and gangs traffic in women and threaten men who refuse to swear allegiance to the caliphate. One of its associates from the region told her that even UNHCR offices in the capital cities, which are staffed with locals, mostly from the majority religion, can be intimidating for Christians. When one Christian family that escaped ISIS attested to being persecuted for religious reasons, the staff reportedly angrily argued back that “Christians are the ones persecuting Muslims.”
The Christian Aid Mission provides further details about hostility inside the UNHCR camps in its release interviewing one of its indigenous mission directors. Posted on its website[10], excerpts follow:

In United Nations camps in Jordan, Islamist gangs bring the same practices that refugees have fled: coercion to join terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS), conflict between militias on both sides of the civil war, and the criminal buying and selling of females as sex slaves.

“The Muslim gangs come as refugees, but they have their agendas,” said the ministry director, whose name is withheld for security reasons. “They’re like a mafia. People are even killed inside the camps, and the refugees are afraid to say if they saw somebody get killed. If you ask them, they’ll say, ‘I don’t know, I was asleep.'” ….U.N. refugee camps offer little refuge, he said. “The last time I went inside a camp, I had a policeman with me,” the ministry director said. “The camps are dangerous because they have ISIS, Iraqi militias and Syrian militias. It’s another place for gangs. They’re killing inside the camps, and they’re buying and selling ladies and even girls.” Inside the camps, ISIS treats the men much as they do in Syria – telling them that they will either swear allegiance to the caliphate or be killed, he said. ISIS militants try to do in secret what they did openly in Syria.

In the British newspaper Express, a terrorist defector asserted that ISIS is sending “teams of trained killers into camps disguised as refugees to kidnap and kill vulnerable Christians.”[11]

These reports raise a humanitarian and security problem so severe they should not be ignored any longer. If confirmed, this would mean that some American aid is going toward the support of ISIS and other extremists and toward the fostering of an environment inside purported camps of refuge that intimidates and oppresses all their residents, whether they are a minority or not. It also means that this U.S. support of Iraqi and Syrian refugees is largely bypassing the Christian and other vulnerable minority refugees. And, as Lord Alton pointed out, these are the camps from which the West, including the U.S., will be accepting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees for resettlement, thus posing potentially a serious security risk to the homeland. These camps need improved oversight and security.

 

Syrian Christians and Other Vulnerable Minorities Are Disproportionately Excluded from the U.S. Syrian Refugee Resettlement Program Due to Reliance on a Functionally Discriminatory UNHCR Program

Another implication of being forced to shelter outside the UNHCR system is that the Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable religious minorities are thus disproportionally excluded from the UN refugee resettlement referrals to the United States and other Western countries. This is borne out in US State Department public data which shows that, since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, cumulatively only about 2.5% of the Syrian refugees resettled through the UNHCR in the United States have been Christians, though Christians comprised 10% of the Syrian pre-war population of 2 million and are facing religious genocide.[12] During this 5-year period, only one lone Yazidi has been resettled in the U.S. through the UNHCR though there were 800,000 Yazidis in pre-war Syria and that vulnerable minority community, too, suffers religious genocide.

Since the Paris terror attacks on November 13, the State Department has admitted 237 Syrian refugees into the United States – 236 Sunni Muslims and one Christian, according to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center.[13] This is structural discrimination against some of the neediest refugees, and it is shameful.

The administration continues to claim that it is U.S. policy to give “priority resettlement” to Syrian Christian and Yazidi refugees. “Due to the unique needs of vulnerable religious minority communities, the State Department has prioritized the resettlement of Syrian Christian refugees and other religious minorities fleeing the conflict,” wrote the Department’s Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Middle East Knox Thames to Shea in the unclassified, official State Department statement. This issue is consequential: The administration is committed to accepting 10,000 refugees from Syria in the coming months, a five-fold increase over the number we have resettled over the last five years combined. Nevertheless, few of these can be expected from the Christian and minority communities as long as the U.S. government relies on a UNHCR refugee referral process that functionally excludes them and as long as administration and congressional leaders remain apathetic about this injustice.

Pope Francis has highlighted the need for the West to include the Christian minority refugees in its welcome of Syrian refugees. In a dramatic gesture, on September 6, the Holy Father, personally, gave refuge inside the Vatican to a Melkite Greek Catholic family from Damascus. The pope has urged others to follow this example.

In light of the foregoing discussion, the Knights of Columbus proposes the following recommendations to ensure this and other guarantees of basic fairness are given effect:

Recommendations:

  1. Congress, including the House of Representatives, should urgently adopt a resolution recognizing that the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, as well as other vulnerable communities are facing genocide. The Knights of Columbus supports House Concurrent Resolution 75, which names and decries the ongoing “genocide” against Christians and other vulnerable minorities in Iraq and in Syria. Introduced by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, this resolution already has 153 bipartisan cosponsors and a similar resolution is to be soon introduced in the Senate.

 

  1. In addition, the U.S. government should publicly acknowledge that genocide is taking place against the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, including in its reportedly impending statement on genocide that, according to reports, refers only to Nineveh’s Yazidi community. It is critically important that the State Department consider the best available evidence before making any official pronouncement that rejects allegations that Christian are, along with Yazidis, targets of ongoing genocidal acts. The United States is rightly viewed the world’s leading defender of vulnerable minorities and as an historic safe-haven for those fleeing religious persecution. An official government declaration of genocide is a unique opportunity to bring America’s religious communities together to pursue the truth, to support the victims and to bear witness to the noble principle of “Never Again.”
  1. As the most generous state both in supporting the UNHCR and in accepting for resettlement refugees referred by it, the United States has a heavy obligation and considerable ability to ensure that places of refuge operated by the UNHCR welcome and provide sanctuary to members of all faiths, including Christians and other vulnerable minorities. It should insist on proper security inside the camps and identify ways to ensure that Christian and other vulnerable minorities from Iraq and Syria are not subject to violence and intimidation inside UNHCR facilities, including possibly by providing separate facilities for minorities and by hiring more professional staffing, including members of the minority communities. The U.S. should require the UNHCR to gather and make public, along with its other data, the religious affiliation of all the refugees it serves. To ignore reports of such humanitarian problems, without prompt investigation and corrective action, would itself be an injustice.
  1. The U.S. government should ensure that Christians and other vulnerable minorities are not structurally discriminated against in the U.S. refugee resettlement of ten thousand Syrians during the current fiscal year. Moreover, it should take immediate action to implement its stated policy of “prioritizing” the resettlement of vulnerable minorities, including Christians. The U.S. government should end its sole reliance on the UNHCR for refugee referrals, and engage private contractors to identify, document and refer Christian, Yazidi and other vulnerable minority refugees from Syria and Iraq who are in need of resettlement.

 

 

ADDENDUM

 

 

December 4, 2015

 

 

The Honorable John F. Kerry

Secretary of State

  1. S. Department of State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Dear Mr. Secretary

 

We write as American citizens concerned about the vulnerable Christian and Yazidi minorities of Iraq and Syria who are being targeted for eradication in their ancient homelands solely because of their religious beliefs. We respectfully request, on an urgent basis, a meeting with a small delegation who can brief you on the continuing religious genocide confronting both these peoples.

 

We recently learned that a State Department finding is imminent that ISIS is committing genocide against the Yazidis. We would wholeheartedly endorse that finding, but we are deeply troubled by the prospect that the Department’s statement will either omit or reserve judgment on whether ISIS is committing genocide against Christians.

 

Two reasons have been given for excluding Christians from the State Department’s findings.

 

  • First, we understand that the Department’s statement will be based on a limited review of ISIS’ actions in Nineveh, Iraq, since the summer of 2014, and that the Department lacks sufficient information about the experience of the Christian communities in Nineveh during that time to conclude that genocide took place. While your office on International Religious Freedom has requested that we provide additional information, it indicated that the final determination of when (or whether) a genocide declaration will be issued concerning Christians will be made at higher levels. We would like the opportunity to explain why the Department’s geographic and temporal focus is too narrow, and to present the available evidence of ongoing genocidal acts against Christians in Syria and Iraq at a level where it can be considered before a finding is made.

 

  • Second, a press report by Michael Isikoff indicates that one rationale for excluding Christians is that, unlike Yazidis, ISIS gives Christians a “choice”:       They can convert to Islam, pay an Islamic tax (jizya), or be killed, enslaved, tortured, or held hostage. The implication is that ISIS abides by traditional Islamic Sharia, under which other “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) pay a tax in exchange for protection by their Muslim rulers. We would like the opportunity to explain why this is emphatically not the case.

 

The Genocide Convention defines genocide as killing and certain other acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” We have extensive files supporting a finding that ISIS’ treatment of Iraqi and Syrian Christians, as well as Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, meets this definition.  They include evidence of ISIS assassinations of Church leaders; mass murders; torture, kidnapping for ransom in the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria; its sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women; its practices of forcible conversions to Islam; its destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and Christian artifacts; and its theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike.  We will also present ISIS’ own, public statements taking “credit” for mass murder of Christians, and expressing its intent to eliminate Christian communities from its “Islamic State”.

 

The world recoiled when it learned that ISIS jihadis had stamped Christian homes in Mosul with the red letter “N” for “Nazarene” in summer 2014, but the elimination of Christians in other towns and cities in Iraq and Syria began long beforehand.  ISIS genocidal campaign against Christians continues today, with hundreds of Christians remaining in ISIS captivity, and with summary executions, including by beheadings and crucifixions, occurring as recently as only a few months ago.

 

Pope Francis has called ISIS’ crimes against Christians by their proper name: “genocide.”  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Christian leaders in the Middle East have done so as well.  We agree, and are hopeful that, once you have seen the evidence, you will too.

 

The United States is rightly viewed the world’s leading defender of vulnerable minorities, and as an historic safe-haven for those fleeing religious persecution. A declaration of genocide by the State Department is thus a unique opportunity to bring America’s religious communities together to pursue the truth, to support the victims, and to bear witness to the noble principle of “Never Again.”

 

It is, therefore, critically important that the State Department consider the best available evidence before making any official pronouncement that rejects allegations that Christian are, along with Yazidis, targets of ongoing genocidal acts.

 

We respectfully request that you meet personally at your earliest convenience with a small delegation drawn from those who have signed this letter. We have included point of contact information in a separate attachment.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Sincerely,

 

Carl Anderson

Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

 

His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian

Ecumenical Director and Legate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

 

Robert A. Destro

Professor of Law, The Catholic University of America

 

Most Reverend Bishop Julian Dobbs

Missionary Bishop of Convocation of Anglicans in North America

 

Dr. Thomas F. Farr

Director Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University

 

Robert P. George

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

 

Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon

Harvard Law School

 

Aram Hamparian

Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America

 

Shirley V. Hoogstra, J.D.

President, Council For Christian Colleges & Universities

 

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Pastor, Hope Christian Church

Bishop, International Communion of Evangelical Churches

 

Most Reverend Sarhad Y. Jammo

Chaldean Bishop of Western U.S.A.

 

Philip Jenkins

Distinguished Professor of History, Institute for Studies of Religion, Baylor University

 

Brian Katulis

Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

 

Rev. Benedict Kiely

Founder, http://www.Nasarean.org

 

The Very Reverend James A. Kowalski

Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

 

Most Reverend Gregory Mansour

Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

 

  1. Albert Mohler Jr.

President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

 

Rev. Johnnie Moore

President, The KAIROS Company

Author, Defying ISIS

 

Russell Moore

President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

 

Mark L. Movsesian

Frederick A. Whitney Professor and Director, Center for Law and Religion

St. John’s University School of Law

 

Archbishop Oshagan

Prelate, Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern)

 

Dr. Elizabeth H. Prodromou

Assoc. Prof. of Conflict Resolution, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University

 

Rev. Bob Roberts, Jr.

Senior Pastor, NorthWood Church, Keller, TX

 

Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez

President, NHCLC/CONELA, Hispanic Evangelical Association

 

Nina Shea

Director and Senior Scholar, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute

 

Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett

President, Lantos Foundation

 

Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides

Ecumenical & Interfaith Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

 

Frank Wolf

Distinguished Senior Fellow of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative;

Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom, Baylor University

 

Dr. George O. Wood

General Superintendent, Assemblies of God, USA

 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Archbishop of Washington

 

 

Attachment (1): Point of contact information.

 

 

cc: Hon. Anthony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State
Hon. Sarah Sewall, Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Hon. Elizabeth Bagley, Senior Advisor for Special Initiatives to the Secretary
Hon. David Saperstein, Ambassador for International Religious Freedom
Hon. Ira Forman, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
Dr. Shaun Casey, Special Advisor for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

 

Point of Contact Information:

 

Nina Shea                    shea@hudson.org

 

Andrew Walther           andrew.walther@kofc.org

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.france24.com/en/20150710-bolivia-pope-francis-calls-end-genocide-christians-middle-east

[2] http://www.uscirf.gov/news-room/press-releases/uscirf-statement-the-designation-victims-genocide-persecution-and-crimes

[3] http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8721.htm

[4] Fr. Bazi also told the Knights of Columbus: “What’s the point of letting sheep among wolves? Be our voice.  I will not be surprised if they are going to destroy us, but I will be disappointed if no one will tell our stories… I will ask you here: pray for my people, help my people, and save my people.  And I believe you can.”

[5] http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/8721.htm

[6]  http://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/

[7]  Unclassified email of October 27, 2015, from Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Middle East Knox Thames to Nina Shea, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

[8] http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/state-dept-us-refugee-program-admits-most-vulnerable .

[9] http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2015/11/fiona-bruce-mp-and-lord-alton-our-aid-programme-must-support-religious-freedom.html

[10] http://www.christianaid.org/mobi/news/2015/mir20151008_full.aspx

[11] http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/614249/ISIS-sends-ASSASSINS-UN-refugee-camps-could-come-Britain

[12] http://www.hudson.org/research/11861-christian-syrian-refugees-united-states-won-t-admit-non-muslims

[13] http://cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/04-christian-syrian-refugees-admitted-paris-attacks-include-236

http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-fulfilling-humanitarian-imperative-assisting-victims-isis-violence

http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-global-crisis-religious-freedom

See letter from Members of Congress calling for genocide to be named as such:

Letter to Sec Kerry re ISIL genocide 4pdfLetter to Sec. Kerry re ISIL genocide

Letter to Sec Kerry re ISIL genocide 2

Letter to Sec Kerry re ISIL genocide 3pdf

Letter to Sec Kerry re ISIL genocide 4pdf

——————————————————–

Also see:

———————————————————

...but British Government still fails to act…..

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4689):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 16 December (HL4327) that “we are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yezidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”, what assistance they are providing to the Assyrian Christians and Yezidis to make the case that genocide has been committed, and what resources they are providing for the collection of evidence. (HL4689)

Tabled on: 17 December 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government believes that recognition of genocides should be a matter for international courts. It should be a legal, rather than political determination, decided by international judges after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible international judicial process.

However, we are funding a project that is documenting sexual violence in Iraq, in a victim sensitive way. This database of cases will then be used to help survivors access justice and ensure that perpetrators are held to account. We also co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council Resolution mandating the UN to investigate and report on Daesh abuses.

Date and time of answer: 30 Dec 2015 at 14:35.

 

 

Kenyan Muslims shield Christians in Mandera bus attack – BBC News

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-35151967

The Exploitation of Domestic Migrant Labour – the right and duty of asylum seekers to be able to work and the debate in Parliament. The Plight of Thousands of Unaccompanied Children. Latest February debates on new Bill.

 

Interventions on the first four days of the Immigration Bill (debates held in January and February 2016) follow:

Refugee Childen UNICEF196290_MigrantBoyrefugee children child-refugee1

http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/640999/Lord-Alton-Liverpool-migrant-crisis-House-Lords-politics

Peer urges Britain to help THOUSANDS of migrant children as crisis spirals out of control

BRITAIN must lead the way in helping thousands of unaccompanied migrant children who have gone missing, a peer has urged.

PUBLISHED: 02:44, Thu, Feb 4, 2016 | UPDATED: 04:04, Thu, Feb 4, 2016

Syrian refugee children at a camp in JordanGETTY FILE PICTURE

Lord Alton urged Britain to help thousands of missing migrant children

Earlier this week Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, estimated 10,000 desperate youngsters had vanished since fleeing to Europe.And Lord Alton of Liverpool yesterday urged the Government to do more to protect children escaping war zones.

He said said it was Britain’s duty to set international standards in helping such children, as it had done combating modern slavery.

It is clearly not an issue on which we can be complacent

Lord Alton

As the Lords debated the Immigration Bill, Lord Alton said: “Of more than one million migrants and refugees who arrived in Europe last year, Europol estimates that 27 per cent of them are children.”If thousands of child migrants have vanished in Europe then it is clearly not an issue on which we can be complacent.”

Britain “must provide flagship legislation” in a bid to “safeguard children” fleeing to the continent, he added.

Kurdish children prepare tea in a refugee campGETTY FILE PICTURE

Some 10,000 children have vanished since fleeing to Europe

The shocking number of missing migrant children was revealed by Europol chief of staff Brian Donald on Monday.He said: “It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children.

“Not all of them will be criminally exploited. Some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with.”

Syrian children in a refugee camp near AleppoGETTY FILE PICTURE

Experts have warned criminals are seeking to exploit refugees

Mr Donald warned of an “entire criminal infrastructure” dedicated to exploiting migrants.He said: “There are prisons in Germany and Hungary where the vast majority of people arrested and placed there are in relation to criminal activity surrounding the migrant crisis.”

Criminal gangs known to be involved in human trafficking were now being caught exploiting refugees, he added.

 

asylum-seekers-deaths-state-care-ireland-390x285asylum seekers

Parliamentary Proceedings on the Immigration Bill 2016:

 

also see –

http://davidalton.net/2015/07/10/2015-the-year-of-the-refugees-just-put-yourself-in-their-shoes-full-house-of-lords-debate-and-government-response-and-a-reply-from-a-north-korean-refugee/

http://davidalton.net/2015/12/17/north-korea-and-the-chilling-findings-of-the-united-nations-commission-of-inquiry-and-calls-in-parliament-for-bbc-world-service-transmissions-to-korea/

Day One of Committee

18 Jan 2016 : Column 570 – Gangmasters Licensing Authority

cockle pickers

The Morecambe Bay Cockle Pickers

cockle pickers2

The Morecambe Bay Cockle PickersLord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, earlier today a number of noble Lords referred to their misgivings about the changes being made to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. During the passage of the modern-day slavery and human trafficking legislation, I moved amendments on the GLA and queried its ability to meet its obligations because of the resources made available to it—a point referred to earlier by my noble and learned friend and by other Members of your Lordships’ House during our earlier debates. During the passage of that legislation, I moved amendments to enable the GLA to utilise assets from the proceeds of the crimes that it had investigated. In doing so, I reminded the House of the events which led to the genesis of the GLA, notably the 23 Chinese men and women who drowned in Morecambe bay after their Liverpool gangmasters took them to undertake cockle picking. At the time, a local fisherman, Harold Benson, described the tragedy as not only awful beyond words but absolutely avoidable.

In December 2014, during the passage of the legislation on modern-day slavery, I told the House that the lessons of Morecambe bay had not been fully learned. I described a similar incident in the Ribble estuary in which 17 cockle pickers of eastern European origin had been snatched to safety. In those debates, I cited the small number of personnel employed by the GLA, the cut, which I referred to earlier, of around 17% in the GLA’s budget between 2011 and 2014, the small number of convictions—just seven—and the research by the University of Durham calling for the mandate of the GLA to be extended. Instead of seeing an expansion of the GLA’s remit in order to prevent labour exploitation, there are genuine fears that the Government’s amendments that we are considering represent a severe threat to the GLA, with changes to its role, remit and name resulting in a greatly weakened licensing labour inspection regime. If this comes to pass, it would inevitably allow new labour abuses, such as those I have just described, to abound.

The main issue revolves around the creation of what has been described as flexible licensing standards without a requirement for affirmative procedures. Government Amendment 77 to omit the requirement for the GLA to make rules by statutory instrument in effect means that the GLA has power to amend licensing standards and must—this is changed from “may” in the original GLA Act—seek approval of the Secretary of State, but not Parliament. The Secretary of State still retains the power she always has had under Section 6(2) of the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act to remove by negative procedure certain circumstances in which labour providers do not require a licence.

In summary, these amendments, taken with existing powers, mean that the Secretary of State could greatly reduce by negative procedure the number of labour providers licensed in a GLA sector, as suggested by the recent consultation response, and could greatly reduce the licence standards to be applied to those who are licensed with no requirement for any statutory instrument. This appears to be what the Government mean when they talk about flexible licensing, which was put forward in the consultation and supported by just 19%—less than one in five—of the respondents.

18 Jan 2016 : Column 571

The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee published a report on the new government amendments only last Friday and found that these new powers to change rules without parliamentary approval are inappropriate and therefore should be removed from the Bill. Focus on Labour Exploitation states that,

“the GLA is a first line of defence against the labour abuses that develop into severe exploitation and modern slavery. We are extremely concerned that a new ‘flexible’ licensing regime as proposed in these amendments will leave the GLA powerless to prevent widespread abuses and therefore exploitation and instead caught up in police style investigations that absorb a huge amount of time and resources”.

In our debate on the Modern Slavery Act, the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, answering for the Government said:

“We need to consider this carefully and ensure that in seeking to broaden the GLA’s remit, we do not undermine the good work that is being done already”.—[Official Report, 10/12/14; col. 1879.]

I entirely concur with that sentiment. We must be very careful indeed not to do precisely that.

The noble Baroness also said:

“The GLA is working with the University of Derby to devise training and to develop an anti-slavery training academy for use by supply chain businesses. This will build on the GLA’s excellent existing collaboration with business in its regulated sectors. The GLA is well placed to tackle the serious worker exploitation that lies between the more technical compliance offences that fall to be investigated by HMRC and the serious and organised crimes that are addressed by the National Crime Agency”.—[Official Report, 10/12/14; cols. 1880-81.]

Presuming that this is the aim of today’s amendments, what are the resource implications? This point was made earlier by my noble and learned friend and other Members of your Lordships’ House. Without the necessary resources, how on earth will this agency be able to do these things? Clearly the Government envisage an expanded role. This will include police-style investigations and powers for offences across the labour market. Alongside this is the proposal to have a more flexible approach to licensing.

The Minister needs to be clear about whether the aim of the amendments published on the very day that the consultation concluded—which hardly demonstrates that there was a long period of reflection—is to remove strict compliance obligations from those businesses which have been compliant hitherto or whether it is to give the GLA more teeth. I wonder what the Minister makes of the minimal support which the flexibility proposal received from the respondents—just 19% out of a total of, I think, 93 respondents to the consultation, who came from academia, charities, trades unions and industry.

Existing GLA licence standards are crafted to give strong protection against exploitation. That includes issues such as working hours, pay, accommodation and safe transport. Clearly, flexible licensing should not mean a reduction in licensing. This must not become a sort of trade-off between licensing as a means of raising labour standards and preventing exploitation and a more flexible approach that could divert time and resources to tackling extreme cases instead. That in turn would create a climate in which rogue gangmasters could flourish and undermine the

18 Jan 2016 : Column 572

excellent intentions of the legislation we passed on human trafficking and exploitation of people as modern-day slaves.

Furthermore, the amendment removes a requirement for the GLA to make rules by negative procedure—a point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, when we were dealing with the earlier amendments. In effect this will mean that the GLA would have the power to amend licensing standards and must seek the approval only of the Secretary of State and not of this House or the other place. The Secretary of State still retains, and always has had, the power to remove certain categories of labour providers requiring a licence by negative procedure. These amendments mean that the licence standards to be applied to labour providers in a given sector could be significantly reduced or expanded without parliamentary scrutiny. Unless Parliament is engaged in the shaping of licence standards, changes could be made without a clear evidential basis and without proper and full consultation with all stakeholders with expertise in labour sector licensing requirements. GLA licensing rules should not be changed without detailed impact assessments, including worker consultation, which might assure Parliament that any changes would not negatively impact upon the vulnerable workers whom they are designed to protect.

In conclusion, when the modern-day anti-slavery legislation was enacted, it had the benefit of pre-legislative scrutiny and of the forensic examination by both Houses. That is not the case with what is before us today. We would be wrong to treat this avalanche of amendments lightly or to be pushed pell-mell into approving them in haste.

The role and resources available to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, these amendments, which I support, raise both the role and resources available, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, described, to the Director of Labour Market Enforcement. Reading though the exchanges in another place, it is clear that the Government were uneasy at Report stage about the lack of clarity in the Bill. Otherwise, why would the Minister, Mr James Brokenshire, have given an assurance to the House of Commons that they would go away and reflect on the matter? Therefore, it would be interesting to hear today the outcome of those reflections.

Certainly, looking at what was said in another place, there are some contradictions obvious to anyone who reads those exchanges. The Minister said, for instance, in Committee:

“We intend the director’s remit to cover labour market breaches, not immigration offences”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 163.]

That is very straightforward. However, at a later stage, he said:

“The provision is not intended to stray into the separate issues of immigration enforcement, but if cases of people who are here illegally are highlighted, the director would be duty-bound to report that and to pass on intelligence through the hub that is being created”.—[Official Report, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 166.]

I would therefore like to know what happens when there is a contradiction between those two roles. Where there is a protective role and an enforcement role, what would be the director’s expected priority in those circumstances? We said throughout the proceedings on the modern day slavery and human trafficking legislation that it should always be victim focused. Is this a derogation from that, or are we simply being consistent with what we did before? The House needs to know before we give this the green light.

I was surprised when the Minister in another place, in refuting the arguments that have been put forward again in your Lordships’ House today, said,

18 Jan 2016 : Column 540

“I simply do not think it is necessary”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 27/10/15; col. 166.]

I wonder why he came to that conclusion, because clarity in legislation is always highly desirable. Otherwise, why would he have wanted to go away and reflect; why would these amendments have been moved in another place; and why would they be here again today? Clearly, something is necessary. Will the Minister, if he cannot put it right today, be agreeable to doing so on Report?

Day 2 of Committee

David Alton with Domestic Migrant Workers 2

March 4th 2015 – David Alton with a group of domestic migrant – campaigning for changes in the law.

 

Domestic Migrant Labour

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I wish to support Amendment 133, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, and to say a word in support of my noble friend Lord Hylton’s Amendment 134B. In March last year, at the last gasp of the then Modern Slavery Bill, your Lordships voted down the amendment that my noble friend has referred to, which would of course have provided greater protection for domestic migrant labour in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, described. My noble friend Lord Hylton has of course persistently championed this cause, and this new legislation gives us an opportunity to rectify what is a long-standing injustice.

In March, those of us who divided the House pressed for the most basic of protections: first, the right to change employer but remain restricted to domestic work in one household; secondly, if in full-time work as a migrant domestic worker in a private household, the option to apply to renew the visa; and thirdly, in instances of slavery, a three-month visa to allow the workers to look for decent work. We argued that without these sorts of provisions, we would leave in place a system found repeatedly over the previous three years to facilitate exploitation, including trafficking of migrant domestic workers.

20 Jan 2016 : Column 830

One of the foremost charities working with these groups, Kalayaan, described how such workers have literally sacrificed themselves to the well-being of their wider families. They do not self-protect in the way that someone with more choices would expect. Many explain that they are prepared to put up with any amount of mistreatment if they can provide for their children and ensure that the same will not happen to them. Kalayaan reports that 65% of the 120 domestic workers on the new visa who they saw between 6 April 2012 and 6 April 2014 did not even have their own rooms but shared children’s rooms or slept on the floor of communal areas, while 53% worked more than 16 hours a day and 60% were paid less than £50 a week.

In 2009, the Home Affairs Select Committee, quoting Kalayaan, said in its inquiry into trafficking that the visa issue was,

“‘the single most important issue’ in preventing the forced labour and trafficking of such workers”.

I recognise that the wholly unacceptable exploitation of domestic workers will not be entirely abolished by the acceptance of these amendments, but it would certainly be an improvement on the current situation.

In reply to the debate last March, the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Bates—urged Members of your Lordships’ House to resist our amendment and to await the outcome of the review of James Ewins, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has mentioned. The Minister said:

“Most crucially, the amendment is defective because a serious and considered piece of work is currently going through its process under the widely respected James Ewins. Our argument is that that should be allowed to take its course”.—[Official Report, 25/3/15; col. 1448.]

In the review, which followed the debate, Mr Ewins takes as his fundamental question,

“whether the current arrangements for the overseas domestic workers visa are sufficient to protect overseas domestic workers from abuse of their fundamental rights while they are working in the UK, which includes protecting them from abuse that amounts to modern slavery and human trafficking”.

We now have the result of that review, and Mr Ewins has recommended removing the visa tie:

“On the balance of the evidence currently available, this review finds that the existence of a tie to a specific employer and the absence of a universal right to change employer and apply for extensions of the visa are incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers while in the UK”.

He goes on to say:

“The review recommends that all overseas domestic workers be granted the right to change employer … and apply for annual extensions, provided they are in work as domestic workers in a private home”.

Who are the kind of people we are talking about? The Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit provides a number of examples, of which I will give only one, relating to the plight of an African national caught up in the cat’s-cradle of domestic labour exploitation. She entered the UK as a domestic worker under the rules in place before April 2012. Her visa has been extended a number of times and she has continued domestic work. She worked for an employer for over three years and was mistreated: she was paid less than promised, shouted at and rarely allowed to leave the house, and her passport was taken by her

20 Jan 2016 : Column 831

employers on arrival—the key point. She of course felt very scared. She managed to gain their agreement to a short holiday after the three years, and when she got her passport back, she changed employers. She was advised about the protection available under the national referral mechanism but has been reluctant to pursue this as she fears she will be sent home to her country of origin by the Home Office. The study shows that a common form of control is retention of documents, psychological abuse and restriction of movement.

However, domestic workers who are allowed to change employer can solve problems that arise with one employer by changing employment and moving away from the problem. The case also shows that the NRM will not be the right fit for everyone, even with advice. Individuals can be frightened of being perceived to cause trouble for others and of repercussions from that.

Although Amendment 133 has provided this welcome opportunity to debate what provision should be made for overseas domestic workers, this can all be achieved simply by amendments to the Immigration Rules, so the full range of options is open to the Government. Either way, Mr Ewins’s recommendations, which he identifies as the minimum necessary to protect overseas workers, should be implemented without delay as an essential first step towards comprehensive protection.

As my noble friend Lord Hylton said, he would go slightly further in Amendment 134B. Maybe these two ideas, which are not in conflict, could be taken together before Report. What is abundantly clear is that the Government must get on with resolving this issue and providing reasonable and basic protection to those caught up in a tangle of exploitation and coercion.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: First, I shall clarify the figure that the noble Lord asked about. It is the figure quoted in the Kalayaan report of people that it had interviewed over the course of two years—120 people. The case that I have advanced today is based not entirely on what I regard as the excellent report of James Ewins. I wonder whether the noble Lord has had a chance to read the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the draft Modern Slavery Bill, which looked at this issue and concluded:

“In the case of the domestic worker’s visa, policy changes have unintentionally strengthened the hand of the slave master against the victim of slavery. The moral case for revisiting this issue is urgent and overwhelming”.

20 Jan 2016 : Column 834

It recommended that the Home Office reverse the changes to the overseas domestic workers visa. That was also a view that the Joint Committee on Human Rights took; in 2014, it said:

“We regard the removal of the right of an Overseas Domestic Worker to change employer as a backward step”,

and urged its reversal. So this is not just Mr Ewins—there is a substantial amount of evidence from highly regarded committees of this House and Joint Committees, which have looked at this matter in detail and come to the same conclusions as Mr Ewins.

let them work

The Right (and Duty) Of Asylum Seekers To Work

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in supporting the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, and supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, may I first put in a request to the Minister, almost in parenthesis, for when he comes to reply? This relates to an issue that was raised on day one, which is the role of people who are involved in voluntary work and what the legal position is, because contradictory positions were expressed on day one. I was looking at some of the briefing material for today’s debate, particularly about a project called the Brushstrokes Community project in Smethwick in Birmingham, which has been providing services for refugees and asylum seekers for over 15 years. Brushstrokes described one asylum seeker who volunteered with the project for over a year before she received refugee status, and who continues to volunteer to this day. Last year she won an award as volunteer of the year in Sandwell. Another woman volunteered as a teaching assistant for around six months while awaiting the outcome of her application. She has now been granted refugee status and is on the path to fulfilling her aspiration of becoming a teacher in the United Kingdom. What is the legal situation of people who work in a voluntary capacity?

20 Jan 2016 : Column 843

There are five substantial reasons why the arguments expressed so well by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, should commend themselves to your Lordships’ House. First, these amendments would provide asylum seekers with a route out of poverty. More than 3,600 asylum seekers have currently been waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their case, surviving on just £5 a day.

Secondly, it reduces the burden on the taxpayer, as asylum seekers who are able to work will not need to be supported for extended periods and will instead be able to contribute to the economy through increased tax revenues and consumer spending. It also safeguards their health and prevents them having to resort to irregular work in what some describe as the black economy.

Thirdly, it avoids the negative consequences of prolonged economic exclusion and forced inactivity. During my 18 years as a Member of another place representing an inner-city neighbourhood in Liverpool I often saw that kind of grinding poverty first hand: the detrimental impact on mental health and self-esteem, the break-up of marriages and families—many Members of your Lordships’ House are very familiar with these kinds of arguments. The dignity that work gives should never be underestimated.

Fourthly, what is the experience elsewhere in other European Union countries? With the exception of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland, other European countries allow asylum seekers to work after nine months and 11 of them grant permission to work after six months or less if a decision has not been made on their asylum application. That has not been a bad experience—it works very well and has not been a pull factor, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was right to remind us.

Fifthly, for those asylum seekers who are eventually given permission to stay, avoiding an extended period outside the labour market is key to ensuring their long-term integration into UK society and encouraging them to be self-sufficient. Therefore, alleviating destitution amongst asylum seekers is a prerequisite if we believe in the upholding of a person’s human dignity. The right to work is fundamental to this and it also relives the state of having to provide financial support.

In 2014, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, set out the defence of the Government’s policy when he said that asylum seekers are,

“provided with support and accommodation while we determine whether they need our protection and until they have exhausted the right of appeal”.—[

Official Report

, 17/3/14; col. 30.]

However, the reality is that £5 a day to meet their essential living needs of food, clothing, toiletries and transport and to pursue their asylum application—housing and utility bills are paid for separately for those who need it—is wholly inadequate. Which of us could survive on that kind of paltry sum? Therefore the asylum seeker loses, but so does the state. We must give asylum seekers a route out of poverty and help them not to become part of a dependency culture.

At the end of June 2015, more than 3,500 asylum seekers had been waiting more than six months for an initial decision. The Minister arranged an all-Peers meeting, which I was able to attend, and Mr James

20 Jan 2016 : Column 844

Brokenshire, the Minister, was also there. He of course said that the Government’s aim is to ensure that there are no people waiting for longer than six months. Can the Minister tell us just how many people are waiting for longer than six months and how long it will be before that objective is met?

I am told that an asylum seeker spends an average of around 18 months on Section 95 support. Asylum seekers who have to survive solely on this level of support for extended periods of time will suffer a negative impact on their mental and physical health.

While a Member of the Commons, Sarah Teather chaired a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people. In January 2013 it found that,

“asylum seeking parents are prevented from working, leaving families dependent on state support. This means that parents are left powerless and lose their skills”—

a point to which the noble Baroness alluded—

“while children are left without positive role models. The government’s own research has highlighted that this can lead to high levels of unemployment and underemployment once a family gains refugee status”.

That inquiry took evidence from over 200 individuals and organisations, including local authorities and safeguarding boards, and specifically recommended that asylum seeking parents and young adults should be given permission to work if their claim for asylum had not been concluded in six months—the point of these amendments.

Let us be clear: by keeping them out of work, many experienced and professional asylum seekers are deskilled, and the time spent not working hinders the opportunity to develop a career. It prejudices the chance to get references for future employment, and it denies people the chance to gain experience. Mr Brokenshire said that this provision would,

“blur the distinction between economic migration and asylum”.—[

Official Report,

Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 10/11/15; col. 461.]

But this amendment addresses that concern, because permission to work would apply only when the delay was not due to action taken by the applicant. I therefore hope that this amendment commends itself to the House.

Full debate at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldhansrd/text/160120-0003.htm

————————————————————————–

SPEECH AT SECOND READING OF THE BILL

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I should like to contrast this Immigration Bill with the Bill which the Home Office laid before us last year on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. That was a well-crafted piece of legislation, which enjoyed bipartisan support and was significantly improved as it made its way through both our Houses of Parliament. Ministers were warmly congratulated on the way in which they engaged with complex issues and the organisations working in the field, but I wish that I could say the same for this Bill.

As the Minister knows, last week I chaired a briefing organised by the Refugee Children’s Consortium, which comprises some 40 agencies. No one could have left that meeting believing that organisations ranging from Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society to the Refugee Council, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association were anything other than deeply concerned by the impact which the Bill will have on some already incredibly vulnerable people.

I would draw a further link with the showcase legislation on human trafficking and modern-day slavery. There is a widely held view, which I share, that the enforced destitution, which has been referred to in this debate and which this legislation sets out to achieve as a misguided way of disincentivising immigrants, will push desperate people into the clutches of traffickers and leave them open to the very exploitation which the 2014 Act set out to deter.

It is sometimes said that when you legislate in haste, you repent at leisure. I feel very uneasy about a Bill which has all the characteristics of hasty legislation: proposals not fully thought through or developed; inadequate evaluation; and drafting that has been struggling to keep up with the progress of the Bill. Another tell-tale sign of unseemly haste is the way in which extensions to Scotland, Northern Ireland and, in some cases, Wales are deferred to regulations—a point which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, alluded to. How can this possibly be a good way of making law?

Nor have we properly evaluated the impact and effect of the Immigration Act 2014 before legislating further. I refer to issues such as the removal of rights of appeal, the creation of civil penalty schemes for landlords and the dispensing with time-honoured remedies and rights of redress. So when we get to Committee and Report, I hope that we will carefully scrutinise in particular Clauses 37 and 38, which are concerned with the destitution of refused asylum seekers.

22 Dec 2015 : Column 2478

In a speech which I made in October in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, when she sought to annul Asylum Support Regulations, I quoted Asylum Link Merseyside, of which I am a patron and which is based in the heart of the inner-city areas that I represented for 25 years as a city councillor or as a Member of the House of Commons. As I said then, it said:

“This government policy of making asylum seekers destitute works on the assumption that by forcing people into extreme poverty they will choose to return to countries from which they have fled in fear of their lives”.

Its experience has been that 98% of failed asylum seekers choose to stay, surviving on handouts, sleeping on floors or sleeping rough. Over the past three years, it has come into contact, in its words,

“with over 400 destitute asylum seekers out of which only 8 have chosen to return home voluntarily”.—[

Official Report

, 27/10/15; col. 1145.]

The Cardinal Hume Centre, a stone’s throw away from where we are gathered today, is one of the very few organisations that still provides free immigration advice from application right up to judicial review. The centre currently has a caseload of more than 300 open cases. From the centre’s front-line experience, it warns that using destitution simply does not work. Instead, it leaves people only more reliant on charities and more susceptible to abuse and exploitation.

Paradoxically, the Bill is likely to undermine immigration controls as refused asylum seekers will have little incentive to remain in contact with the authorities once support has been withdrawn. Statistics released by the Home Office last month revealed that a third of appeals are in fact accepted, so under Part 5 of the Bill there will be individuals and families with children who will eventually be granted asylum, but who by that point will have been starved and abandoned by the British state. How will that help with their integration into society?

The current demonising and scapegoating of migrants should make us think about the society we want to be: do we value these people as sources of economic potential or as human beings? My late mother came to this country as an immigrant from the west of Ireland. Her first language was Irish, not English, and she and her siblings fled harrowing poverty after the deaths of both their parents. She met my demobbed father, who was a Desert Rat, and married. She was always grateful for the opportunity to earn a living, make a home and bring up her children. In my years as a teenage student in Liverpool, there were still advertisements for accommodation that bore the words, “Blacks and Irish need not apply”. I also saw how easily people and communities could be stigmatised and discriminated against. All this makes me especially wary of laws which indefinitely detain immigrants and seem to discriminate against them. I hope that, in Committee, we will correct this injustice, and I entirely agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, about indefinite detention.

We should also enable people to have the right to work, perhaps modelled on the American green card system. How many of us could survive in accommodation, given on a no-choice basis, with just £5.28 each day to cover food, clothing, toiletries, travel, communications and all other necessities? This year, the British Red

22 Dec 2015 : Column 2479

Cross says that it has supported more than 10,000 asylum seekers and their dependents in that kind of situation. This is not Syria; it is the UK in 2015, and yet 10,000 people were in receipt of aid from the Red Cross. That is not the hallmark of a compassionate or civilised society.

The Bill also affects family unity. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights insists:

“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”.

The situation in Calais was referred to earlier. There are currently an estimated 6,000 people living in the “jungle” refugee camp in Calais, and the majority of residents are refugees from countries and regions facing the kind of dangers of which we are all too sadly aware. Caritas Social Action Network recently visited the camp and spoke to young people fleeing terror groups. One young man, just 18, was left with little choice but to leave Iraq after his village was taken under Daesh control. Had he stayed, he would have faced two options: join or be put to death. His brother had already claimed asylum in the UK, and was now living safely in Liverpool, yet the restrictive family reunification rules mean he cannot join him here. Having experienced such atrocities and loss, is it fair that he would not be able to be reunited with his family in England?

I have referred to the camp in Calais on a number of occasions during exchanges in your Lordships’ House. Rob Lawrie, a former soldier, tried to rescue a four year-old girl from the camp because he could not bear to see her remain in the horrific conditions—he now faces five years in prison for doing so. He concedes that what he did was wrong, but it is hard not to think of the Kindertransport or Sir Nicholas Winton and the rescue of countless children caught up in the horrors of the Third Reich, which bears easy comparison with the depredations of ISIS. Save the Children say that 10,000 minors and unaccompanied children fled to Europe last year, but 4,000 have disappeared. Into what? The Minister has undertaken to meet Save the Children and I hope he will give us a detailed response on the position of unaccompanied minors and children and what priority they will be given, how local authorities will be co-ordinated to deal with them, what safeguarding will be put in place, and how the amazing generosity and goodness of countless British people will be tapped through nationally organised fostering arrangements.

Finally, as currently drafted, the Bill fails to address the abuse and exploitation that migrant domestic workers face as a consequence of the tied visa system, an issue which I spoke on at each stage of the Modern Slavery Bill, and on which my noble friend Lord Hylton and I divided your Lordships’ house. I echo his remarks from earlier. In response to our debates, the Government asked the barrister James Ewins to carry out a review of the overseas domestic worker visa. Published last week, it covered the right to change employer, extension to two and a half years for such workers, information interviews and refusal of settlement. Mr Ewins says:

“On the balance of the evidence currently available, this review finds that the existence of a tie to a specific employer and the absence of a universal right to change employer and apply for extensions of the visa are incompatible with the reasonable protection of overseas domestic workers while in the UK”.

22 Dec 2015 : Column 2480

The tied visa system has increased the exploitation and abuse of domestic workers. Reform to the rules is desperately needed and it is vital that we do not miss this opportunity, once again, to rectify this injustice. The report quotes the Minister himself as saying:

“Abuse of domestic workers, whether UK or EEA nationals, those on an [overseas domestic workers] or other visa, or those who have entered the UK illegally, is an abhorrent crime and will not be tolerated here in Britain”.

Now is our chance to give legislative protection to this group of workers and I look forward to hearing from the Minister what the Government propose to do.

1.25 pm

 

————————————————————————–Question on Eritrean Refugees

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the June 2015 report of the UN commission of inquiry said that probable crimes against humanity are being committed in Eritrea? That is why there has been such a haemorrhaging of the population, with 10% of the people—some 350,000—having fled thus far. If we do not come to terms with the root causes, will not those massive numbers of migrants continue

12 Jan 2016 : Column 130

to rise? What are we doing to pursue the recommendations in that report? Furthermore, does the Minister not recognise that when those migrants leave Eritrea, the story is not over, as the beheadings in Libya by ISIS only go to prove?

Lord Bates: That is absolutely right. It was a horrific report and it is not something on which the British Government are standing idly by. It is an issue on which we have engaged with the Eritrean Government through our embassy in Asmara. There was a meeting between the Foreign Minister and James Brokenshire at the margins of the EU and African Union conference in Rome in November, and that was followed up by a visit by Foreign Office and Home Office officials to assess the situation there. We continue to put great pressure on the Eritrean Government to live up to the commitments that they have made. It is only by tackling the cause of the problem, whether in Eritrea or Syria, that we can hope to stem the flow that results in the consequences that the noble Lord has highlighted.

———————————————————————-

Immigration Bill: Day 3

Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, during the excellent remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in introducing his amendments and talking about these clauses, he referred to Stephen Shaw’s report and I want to ask the Minister some questions about that. He will know that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration produced a pretty damning report on immigration detention, which led to the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, being asked to investigate the treatment of vulnerable persons in detention. His report was published on Thursday 14 January, so another place had no opportunity to discuss that when it was considering the Bill, but we have a chance now to ask the Minister some questions about it in the context of these clauses.

Has the Minister had a chance to read the report in detail? It criticises the conduct of searches in immigration detention centres and it gives cause for further scrutiny of these provisions. The Minister himself, in his remarks on the previous set of amendments, said that things such as strip-searching would not be permitted, but I was concerned to read a number of accounts in Stephen

1 Feb 2016 : Column 1634

Shaw’s report that involved male detention staff in searches of women, although not with the removal of clothes, and of women’s rooms in Yarl’s Wood. I am particularly interested in the situation there, as, thanks to the Minister, my noble friend Lord Hylton and I have been able to arrange a visit to Yarl’s Wood on Wednesday morning. I am glad that we will have the opportunity to put some of these questions directly to the staff who run that facility.

Mr Shaw says in his remarks:

“It is of the greatest importance that the proportion of female staff at Yarl’s Wood is increased … In the meantime, Serco should only conduct searches of women and of women’s rooms in the presence of men in the most extreme and pressing circumstances, and there should be monitoring and reporting (to Home Office Detention Operations) of these cases”.

In recommendation 35 of the report, he states:

“I recommend that the service provider at Yarl’s Wood should only conduct searches of women and of women’s rooms in the presence of men in the most extreme and pressing circumstances, and that there should be monitoring and reporting of these cases”.

During that review, Stephen Shaw identified evidence that the Home Office policy of not searching detainees, especially women, in the view of other people, is not always followed. I was struck by some examples that he gave. He said that:

“As far as the practices at Heathrow, Lunar house and Eaton House are concerned, the evidence of this review is that the Home Office’s policy that detainees (especially women) should not be searched in view of other people is not always followed”.

For instance, talking about Heathrow Terminal 3, Mr Shaw says, at paragraph 3.175:

“A female detainee was searched in front of several people”

At paragraph 3.227, talking about Lunar House, he says:

“Detainees were searched in an area where they could be seen by others in the main holding room”.

At Eaton House, at paragraph 3.240, he says:

“A female detainee was searched in the holding room by the Tascor escort who had arrived to take her to Colnbrook. This was in front of a male detainee and a male member of staff”.

Clearly, given the vulnerable position of detainees, particularly women, who are held as immigration detainees, and the lack of compliance by detention custody staff with existing policies on searching detainees, it would be highly inappropriate to extend those powers of search to include searches for the purpose of identifying nationality documents, particularly where they are so broadly defined in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has already described to the Committee. When he comes to reply, I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us how the Government intend to respond to Stephen Shaw’s observations and recommendations.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I intervene briefly to support the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and previously the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, have made about the importance of the language we use. When the Minister comes to consider this issue again between now and Report, I wonder whether he will look at the nomenclature that we use here and whether “immigration bail”, with its connotations of criminality, really is the right language for us to use at all. In particular, people seeking asylum are not criminals when one considers that they will include refugees, children, survivors of torture and trafficked people. It is quite wrong to imply that they are necessarily people who are therefore trying to break our laws.

I hope that the Minister will also return specifically to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about our duties under international law, especially Article 31 of the 1951 refugee convention, which expressly protects those who claim asylum from being treated as criminals. The UNHCR and other international guidance recognises that the detention of persons seeking asylum must always be the exception, so let us at least start from the basis that those seeking asylum will be among people who are genuine. They will be trying to escape from the most appalling situations

1 Feb 2016 : Column 1653

in their own countries and are not criminals. We therefore must have some regard for their well-being and status.

I would like to raise one other brief issue in relation to Schedule 7, which is not covered by these amendments but on which I hope that the Minister will be able to provide some clarification. It appears that the introduction of a restriction on studies as a condition either of temporary admission or bail for those subject to immigration control is a new provision. I would be grateful if the Minister would spell that out. No reason for the restriction is given in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill, so I wonder whether we could take this opportunity in Committee to find out what that reason is. Breach of a condition of immigration bail is, as we have just discovered in these exchanges, a criminal offence and therefore has serious consequences. Those lawfully present and in touch with the authorities should not be restricted from undertaking studies. All those subject to immigration control will be on immigration bail, not just persons released from detention. The condition could potentially be applied to children and young people, preventing them accessing further education and even attending their school. I am sure that that is not what the Government had in mind but I hope they will clarify what the consequences of this provision might be.

7.15 pm

———————————————————————————————————————————–

 

Lord Keen of Elie:

The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, made a point with regard to restrictions on studies and the provisions in Schedule 7. This existing power is used only in the context of a terrorism-related issue which is subject to SIAC provisions. I would be content to write and elaborate on that in due course. I had not anticipated that the point would be raised, but I emphasise that this is an existing power used only in the most exceptional circumstances pertaining to terrorism. If the noble Lord wishes me to write further on that, I would be glad to do so.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving that clarification. It would be a convenience and a help to the House and to those who have made representations about this if further clarity could be given. If the power is to be used only in circumstances relating to terrorism, that seems a reasonable and justifiable provision.

Lord Keen of Elie: I am most obliged to the noble Lord and I undertake to write on that point.

 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, given that my noble friend (Lord Green of Deddington) has placed a great deal of reliance on public opinion and how he thinks public policy should

1 Feb 2016 : Column 1691

be shaped, and given that he has cited figures from 2014, has he had a chance to reflect on the figures produced by the House of Commons Library about the cost of running detention centres in the way we are at the moment?

The cost was £164 million in 2014, while the cost of keeping one person in a detention centre is £36,000 a year. In addition, £15 million was paid out in compensation for illegal and unlawful detention. Surely he would agree with those of us who have been putting an alternative point of view that it is an issue which needs to be tackled at a fundamental level.

Lord Green of Deddington: Yes, I certainly agree that detention is a very expensive business in all circumstances; that is true. The people I would be most concerned about are those who plan to come here as economic migrants and who would have no right of asylum. They are the people who need to be deterred. It is not so much public opinion; it is having an asylum system which is seen to be effective. By all means, people who have been tortured need to be dealt with, but it would surprise me if many were actually in detention. They would not be there if their cases had not been heard and refused by the immigration courts.

 

Lord Keen of Elie: One of the points that noble Lord referred to, and which was referred to also by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, was the question of set time limits, and the limits that apply in the context of the EU returns directive. It is important to have a full understanding of the EU returns directive. It sets a limit on immigration detention of six months and is extendable to 18 months. Some EU countries have shorter limits—France, for example—but Germany allows for the full 18 months’ extension under the directive. So one has to have regard to the full terms of the EU directive.

The United Kingdom has not signed up to the EU returns directive; we prefer to maintain control of our own borders. There are other issues to be considered as well. The very legal system within each of these European countries is distinct, so for example, in some

1 Feb 2016 : Column 1693

there is no concept of judicial review of executive action, as we understand it, and therefore no scope for review of executive action in the context of immigration control and the application of immigration policy. So one has to be a little careful when seeking to rely on comparative law and comparative data.

We are, of course, working towards the voluntary return of illegal migrants to this country, as well as implementing various schemes to deal with those who refuse to return. I notice that during the last two years there have been more than 50,000 voluntary returns by migrants to this country. Again, that is simply to put the matter in context.

 

Lord Keen of Elie: The clearest answer I can give is that it is a matter for consideration at present by Ministers. They will consider it because they have already said that. They noted the recommendations in Stephen Shaw’s report. They have not yet determined in a black and white way that they will implement all 64 recommendations and no one would expect them to have done so in this timescale, but they will address them.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, has probably exhausted that line of argument for the moment. However, he was also asked during the debate not whether there are few or many but how many pregnant women are in detention centres at present, what their length of stay has been and whether any babies have been born there. If he cannot give those figures this evening, rather than simply saying “very few”, which was the phrase he used a few minutes ago, perhaps he will agree to write to noble Lords and let us know exactly what the numbers are.

Lord Keen of Elie: I am perfectly happy to write to noble Lords to give the figures for the number of pregnant women at present in detention and perhaps over a period of six months to cover both before and after Stephen Shaw’s report, so that there are some meaningful figures they can work from. I cannot give exact figures. That may not surprise your Lordships. I am advised that there are very few pregnant women in the estate. However, more precise figures will be given.

The adults at risk policy will take a more holistic and dynamic approach to the assessment of vulnerability, based on the best available evidence. That is what Stephen Shaw has identified as the most ambitious approach to ensuring that adults at risk are safeguarded. However, the approach in the proposed new clause

1 Feb 2016 : Column 1696

would not be workable in practice. It does not take into account the realities of how individuals are discovered. For example, how would we handle cases at the border who can be returned on the next flight? Following this amendment, an individual could not be lawfully detained without an order of the tribunal. That would be an administrative challenge to obtain and would require significant extra resources. The same would be true of an individual encountered jumping off the back of a lorry. And what would happen if someone was already detained and raised these issues? Would they be unlawfully detained until an order of the tribunal was given? It is simply not workable in practice.

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: If the noble Baroness will allow me, one thing that does not seem to have been referred to in the course of our debates is the exponential increase in the number of people detained. I think that there was an 11% increase last year, with around 31,000 people being detained in this country. Does that not underline the importance of what she is saying about looking for alternatives to this? I gave the figures earlier: the cost to the public purse is around £36,000 per person detained. Millions of pounds are being spent on something that does not give great credit to our nation. Surely we should look for an alternative to this. We know that such alternatives exist elsewhere, which is where Stephen Shaw seems to be pointing us. Is that not what we should be doing between now and Report?

Baroness Hamwee: Indeed, and the sentence before the one which I quoted referred to a system,

“both … more protective of the welfare of vulnerable people and”,

delivering,

“better value for the taxpayer”.

———————————————————————-

Immigration Bill: Day 4.

Immigration Bill

Committee (4th Day)

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I am a signatory to Amendment 227, which has been so comprehensively and well introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Bates, will recall that, prior to Second Reading, I chaired a meeting in your Lordships’ House organised by the Refugee Children’s Consortium and the Children’s Society. Some of the issues raised by the noble Lord today were raised then, and I know that they have been on the mind of the Minister.

The position of children was brought home to me by a report that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Monday last, reiterated in the Observer on Sunday, which stated:

“At least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared in Europe, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency has said, as it warned many could be in the hands of traffickers.

Brian Donald, Europol’s chief of staff, said the children had vanished after arriving in Europe and registering with state authorities”.

He went on to say:

“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children”.

We should take the rights of children, which are at the heart of the amendment, very seriously within our own jurisdiction, as well as recognising that children are suffering outside our jurisdiction as a result of this massive crisis of migration.

The seriousness of this question and of out-of-country appeals was also brought home to me this morning when, with my noble friend Lord Hylton and as a result of the kindness of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and Mr James Brokenshire in organising it for us, we visited Yarl’s Wood detention centre. I was deeply impressed by a lot of what we saw there. We were able to talk at random to people at Yarl’s Wood. I spoke to a lady who is 33 years of age. She has lived in this

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1797

country for 26 years. She has three children, aged 17, 14 and 12. She was born in Somalia. Because she has some minor convictions, including things such as shoplifting in the past, this lady will be deported from this country to Mogadishu in Somalia. “Needless to say”, she said, “Every night, I sleep with my heart pounding”. I do not know, but will this woman have to launch an appeal from Mogadishu? Is this the sort of thing that could arise as a consequence of this legislation?

That is why the amendment that the noble Lord moved is so important. I have three very brief reasons why I support it. First, thousands of children, including British citizens, will be at risk of being separated from their parents or being removed from the UK before any judicial scrutiny of the Home Office’s decision and without adequate consideration of the best interests of the child. Secondly, given the consequences of inappropriate certification and the cost and obstacles to challenging certification—the only means of doing so being by judicial review—surely it is wrong to extend the existing provisions. Thirdly, Clause 34 could see more cases involving unaccompanied children or young people aged over 18 who claimed asylum alone as children, or who arrived as children and have lived in the UK for most of their lives, being certified for an out-of-country appeal and being removed to their countries of origin without a sufficient assessment of their best interests being undertaken.

The Children’s Society tells me that the provisions risk children being deprived of their parents or forced to leave the country that they grew up in before any judicial scrutiny of the Home Office’s decision and without adequate consideration of the best interests of the child. It says that this provision could see more cases involving unaccompanied children or young people aged over 18 who claimed asylum alone as children and/or who have lived here for many years and have built their lives in the UK being certified for an out-of-country appeal.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was right to remind us of the implications, following the changes made under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, of the consequences of removing legal aid. I was struck by a report, again by the Children’s Society, that estimates that 2,490 children would be out of scope in a post-LASPO context. Clearly, without legal aid these children, including those in care, are unable to resolve their immigration issues, often resulting in a crisis for the child as they turn 18.

I have only one other point, which is a question to the Minister. Given the difficulties that children and families face making immigration applications because there is no legal aid for immigration claims, how will the Home Office be sure that it has all the information it needs to make a comprehensive, best-interests assessment before allowing an appeal only from outside of the United Kingdom? Before we agree the provisions of the clause or reject the amendment, we need an answer to that question.

 

 

4.45 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: As the noble and learned Lord says, it would be invidious to build a whole argument on just one case, but I must add two points to what he has just said. First, the lady told me that she had several convictions and custodial sentences but none had been for longer than three months, which does not suggest that these were hugely serious offences. Secondly, this is about returning someone to Mogadishu in Somalia, with all the problems that country faces at present. Every day one hears reports of bombings and last week there were reports of bazookas being used on the streets. This is someone who has lived in the United Kingdom for 26 years and has had three children in this country in that time. That is why the case is relevant to this afternoon’s debate about the undesirability of breaking up family life in those circumstances.

Lord Keen of Elie: I quite understand the noble Lord’s point. That is why the Secretary of State retains discretion over certification—this is not an absolute. In circumstances where there is a risk of serious irreversible harm because of conditions in a particular country or part of a country, there will not be certification. In circumstances where that would amount to a breach of an individual’s human rights, there will not be certification. There is that safety net. It may not be as large as some noble Lords would wish but it is there for these very cases. It is not dissimilar from the instance cited by the right reverend Prelate of a child being exposed to the very real risk of sexual violence or mutilation. Again, this is why the provisions of Clause 34 are not absolute and compel the Home Secretary to take a reasoned decision that has regard to a primary issue being the interests of the child.

A further point was raised by the noble Lord about whether and when the Secretary of State for the Home Department could be sure that she had all the information. Of course, there can be no absolutes. However, in a situation involving children, individuals—parents and

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1811

carers—readily come forward to explain that there are children. Where the existence of children is identified, that matter is explored, as it is bound to be, pursuant to Section 55 of the Act I cited earlier.

My experience of being involved in the Kiarie and Byndloss cases before the Court of Appeal involved my examining the decision letters issued by the Home Office. These are not glib, one-paragraph notices, but very detailed and considered letters that were sent out, giving not only a decision but a reasoned foundation for that decision. I cannot—and would never dare to—assert that they are invariably right in every respect, or that they are exhaustive in every way. On the face of it, however, it is the practice, subject to the guidance given, to send out truly reasoned decision letters in these circumstances, with particular reference to the interests of the child or children who may be affected.

———————————————————————————-

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, has reminded us that this clause is about forced destitution. Is it right that in a country such as this, which is one of the wealthiest in the world and upholds humane and civilised standards of decency, we should leave people without adequate resources believing that it is a way to somehow force them to leave the country? At Second Reading, I rehearsed

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some of the arguments. I mentioned Asylum Link Merseyside, of which I am a patron, and the work it has done that demonstrates that that simply does not work, because when parents, rightly or wrongly, think that their children’s lives will be at risk if they return home, they will generally consider that becoming destitute in the United Kingdom is the better option available to them. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is right to ask whether we wish this clause to remain part of the Bill and to argue why it should not stand part.

Asylum Link Merseyside works with asylum seekers, but as my noble friend Lord Sandwich and others have reminded the Committee, the Home Office commissioned its own report into these things—I think that the Home Office study covered a cohort of about 116 families. It found that the rate of absconding was 39% for those in the Section 9 pilot but only 21% in the comparable control group who remained supported. Only one family in the pilot was successfully removed, compared to nine successful removals in the control group, and,

“there was no significant increase in the number of voluntary returns … of unsuccessful asylum seeking families”.

That is why the Home Office concluded that Section 9 should not be used on a blanket basis. Removing Clause 37 would remove something that we know does not work, that is likely to be more costly, that is an inefficient support system and that will clearly, as others have said, put the welfare of children at risk.

The Bill will establish a highly bureaucratic system which will be burdensome to administer. Local authorities will remain the body to which destitute refused asylum seekers who have fallen through the safety net turn for support. They will have to conduct eligibility tests and assessments to see whether support is required in order to safeguard the welfare of a particular child. In these cash-strapped days, do we really believe that local authorities will be in a position to do that? The complexity of these new arrangements means that families with children are likely to fall through the gaps in the system and find themselves destitute, at least temporarily. The consequences of refused asylum seekers being left without support, even for short periods of time, is extremely serious as it causes illness and complicates existing health problems.

Some noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Hamwee, were able to attend a briefing a few weeks ago which was given by, among others, Still Human Still Here. I asked then for some illustrations of how this could work out in practice. I shall give two brief examples. Still Human Still Here mentioned a 2012 serious case review which involved an asylum seeker who developed a brain infection and could not look after her child. The boy starved to death and the mother died two days later. The family became destitute during the transition from asylum to mainstream support, leaving the family,

“dependent upon ad hoc payments by local agencies”.

The review expressed,

“concern about the adverse consequences on vulnerable children and the resulting additional pressure on local professional agencies”,

when support was cut off.

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In 2011 a serious case review involving child Z noted that the circumstances of the child’s mother, a refused asylum seeker facing removal with a life-threatening illness and caring for a young child with few support networks,

“would challenge any individual’s coping strategies”.

It stressed that the,

“need for high levels of support for someone with such vulnerabilities was clear”,

and the absence of this support was a major factor leading to the woman’s death and her child needing to be looked after.

Both these cases highlight the consequences of leaving vulnerable families without support, and I therefore have some questions for the Minister. The Government’s proposals leave the detail of the new support provisions, including the level of support, to regulations. First, will the Government provide an assurance that the level and type of support provided under Section 95A or new paragraphs 10A and 10B of Schedule 3 to the 2002 Act will meet the essential living needs of asylum seekers and that the housing provided will be appropriate for vulnerable children and their families?

Secondly, the Government have stated that it will not be possible to apply for Section 95A support after the prescribed grace period, which is 21 days for single adults and 90 days for families with children. Will the Government provide an assurance that the regulations which permit applications outside the grace period will include changes of circumstance, such as when asylum seekers who were previously supported by friends or family become destitute or when asylum seekers encounter a barrier to return after the grace period is over?

Thirdly, will the Government consider amending language which prevents local authorities providing support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 where,

“there are reasonable grounds for believing that support will be provided”,

as it is likely to leave families destitute for considerable periods of time while responsibility is determined?

Fourthly, and penultimately, while local authorities will be able to provide accommodation and subsistence support when they are satisfied that it is needed to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child, regulations will be laid specifying factors which the local authority must or must not take into account in making this decision. What factors do the Government intend to specify must or must not be taken into account?

Lastly, will the Government provide an assurance that the best interests of the child, which were referred to by the Minister’s noble and learned friend in earlier exchanges, shall be a primary consideration in the operation of any actions concerning children in the Bill —a point that I think will be reflected on in response to what the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said earlier—and that the new mechanisms of support set up in the Bill will ensure that every child has a right to,

“a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development”?

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1828

Those words are required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I hope the Government will consider bringing forward their own amendment at least to put that in the Bill.

I realise that the Minister may not be able to answer those five questions now, although I hope the Box will be able to provide him with some response. However, at least between now and Report, I hope that he will give reassurance to all noble Lords who have participated in today’s debate supporting the excellent points that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made in moving that this clause should not stand part of the Bill.

 

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister will recall that I put five questions to him. Although he has in his ministerial reply touched tangentially on some of those points, I wonder whether he would be good enough to confirm that he will write to me with a response to the particular points I made.

Lord Bates: I apologise if I did not address those questions specifically head-on. Of course, I am blessed with having a team of officials behind me who capture the gaps in my response. We have a track record, I think, of following up in some detail to plug those gaps so that Members have the information that they need to scrutinise the legislation before the House.

Clause 37 agreed

 

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, put the case eloquently and persuasively. She and I attended a briefing with the British Red Cross and she then tabled the amendment. I added my name as a signatory because it puts, as she said, a real and unnecessary injustice right. It is a basic safeguard against enforced destitution.

The Minister needs no convincing about the merits of the British Red Cross. He has not only raised significant sums for the organisation in a voluntary capacity but I know that he has huge admiration for the work that it does. Representatives told us in the briefing that we had with them that they had helped to reunite 300 refugee families last year in the UK. They also illustrated from their own experience that destitution in the asylum system is a worsening and deepening problem. They supported 9,000 refugees and asylum seekers who were destitute in 2015, compared with 7,700 in 2014, which is an increase of some 15%. That included people granted refugee status but not given enough time to transition to mainstream benefits in the way that the noble Baroness just described.

Nearly 44% of destitute refugees and asylum seekers supported by the Red Cross last year were from Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Syria, all of which are among the world’s top refugee-producing countries. Although I agree with what the Minister said earlier about people seeking better lives from countries such as Albania—a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, in his intervention—we must never lose sight of some of the hell-holes from which people are coming.

When the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and I were at Yarl’s Wood today, two men had just arrived off the back of lorries from Iran. Another had arrived from Mosul in Iraq. The situations they had come from were such that any noble Lord in the Chamber tonight would have attempted to escape from too. We have to be clear that these are not economic migrants or people who are just coming for a better life. Some of them have come from the most perilous and appalling situations.

If the Bill is left unaltered, it could plunge thousands more people in those kinds of situations into poverty, including families who are unable to leave the UK through no fault of their own, for example due to a lack of identification documents to provide their nationality or because they have no viable or secure place to return to.

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6.45 pm

Research conducted by the Red Cross in South Yorkshire has found that, among asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds, two-thirds experience repeated hunger on a regular basis, with a quarter experiencing it every day. Over 60% had no fixed accommodation and were therefore reliant on informal networks, relatives, friends or other acquaintances for a place even to sleep at night. Over half reported worsening health over the past year.

In the previous group of amendments, I made a number of points about enforced hardship and the calamitous consequences of that on individuals as well as on society. I do not need to repeat all of those. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I, too, have seen case studies from the Red Cross. She cited the particular example of Hagos, a 19 year-old, who spent 50 days in destitution. There were three other case studies I looked at. I will not go into the details other than to cite the numbers of days of destitution. One was a 27 year-old from Sudan who had been destitute for 38 days. In the third study, another young man from Sudan had been 19 days in destitution. In the fourth study, a teenager of 19 years of age from Ethiopia spent 21 days in destitution.

All of us with children or grandchildren can imagine our own youngsters in that kind of situation. We would not want it for them and we should not want it for these young people. I know that the Minister, in his heart, would not want it either. This is a just and reasonable amendment, and I hope that the Minister will take seriously the request made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, in asking for continued discussions around this question between now and Report.

 

 

 

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Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, as the Minister said in his reply to the previous group of amendments, we will now have our attention focused on a whole group on the plight of children primarily, and how this legislation will affect them. It is slightly mind-boggling to find your amendment grouped with 26 government amendments, let alone 10 other amendments, and I will leave others to deal with those.

Earlier, I referred to a report that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Monday and had its origins in a story in the Observer newspaper on Sunday. I should like to return to that for a moment. The report states:

“Brian Donald, Europol’s chief of staff, said …‘It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children’” ,

who are unaccompanied and who had disappeared in Europe. He continued:

“‘Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with’”.

The report continued:

“Of more than a million migrants and refugees who arrived in Europe last year, Europol estimates that 27 per cent of them are children … ‘Not all those are unaccompanied, but we also have evidence that a large proportion might be, Mr Donald told The Observer, adding that the 10,000 is likely to be a conservative estimate’”.

If thousands of child migrants have vanished in Europe, it is clearly not an issue about which we can be complacent. As we did with the human trafficking and modern-day slavery legislation, we must provide flagship legislation which other nations can emulate. Our practice here must be beyond reproach and we certainly must do all we can to safeguard children from falling into the hands of people who would exploit them.

One issue to which we have given relatively little attention in the course of our proceedings is that regarding children born in the UK or living in the UK from an early age without citizenship or leave to remain. Amendment 230D has a particular effect in relation to children in the care of a local authority. However there are many other children in similar circumstances in the UK, albeit not in care. The amendment would prevent in defined circumstances the application of Schedule 9 which, in various respects, removes obligations on local authorities to provide leaving care support to children without either British citizenship or leave to remain in the UK, including in relation to accessing higher education and other education and training. The circumstances in which it would prevent the effect of Schedule 9 is where the local authority has failed to support the child in its care to register as a British citizen, or obtain the leave to remain to which the child is or was entitled. Why should a local authority benefit effectively from reduced obligations in circumstances which have come about only because of the authority’s failure to adequately assist the child?

The project for the registration of children as British citizens—PRCBC, which I shall simply refer to, if I may, as the project—is supported by Amnesty International UK which drew this issue to my attention, for which I am grateful. It says that among the young people who stand to lose leaving care support under

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Clause 38 are young people who come to the UK at a very young age, and indeed some who were even born in this country.

I asked for examples so that I could illustrate the problem. They include people like Henry who was three years old when he was brought to the UK. He is now 15 and has been under the care of his local authority and in foster care since his grandmother’s death when he was seven. Henry is one of the luckier of these children. He has no leave to remain. However, he was referred to the project and it has been able to assist him in connection with his entitlement to register as a British citizen.

There are an estimated 120,000 children in the UK subject to immigration control and without leave to remain, more than half of whom were born in this country. Many of them are entitled to British citizenship under various provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981. However, many of them do not know and there is nobody to tell them of their entitlement. Indeed, in many cases, nobody makes the effort to find out that the child does not have citizenship or leave to remain in the UK until he or she turns 18 and seeks access to university or employment.

Another example is a young man called James whom the project has been able to assist. He was born in the United Kingdom. He has been in care since the age of one. His social worker attended one of the project’s free training sessions and referred his case. He, too, has no lawful status in the UK but is entitled to register as a British citizen.

Arising from these cases in the illustrations I have given, I have some questions for the Minister. Has he any assessment of the number of children—children without status but who are either entitled to register as a British citizen or who may be able to apply for registration at the discretion of the Secretary of State—who will be affected by Clause 38? Can he confirm, as both the project and Amnesty point out, that these children will also be adversely affected by the rest of a generally hostile environment, including the provisions we have discussed today concerning the right to rent and unlawful working, and issues we have discussed on previous sitting days? How many children in local authority care will fall into these categories? What steps do local authorities take to establish the immigration status of children in their care and then keep that under review? Do they just disappear into the ether? What assistance does the Home Office provide them to ensure they understand the entitlements of these children?

Many of the children face difficulties accessing legal advice or paying the fee required for them to register their citizenship. I should be grateful if the Minister, when he replies, can confirm that there is no legal aid for this and that the fee is currently some £749, of which £526 is simply profit to the Home Office. I understand that it is intended for the fee to go up to £936—a rise of 25%. Is that correct?

Although the focus of the project is assisting children to access their entitlement to British citizenship, it also sees cases where a child may alternatively be eligible for leave to remain. These children are young people; they are not culpable for their lack of status. Indeed, in some instances that arises due to historical wrongs

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1847

in our citizenship laws, which Governments have taken some important steps to address, for instance, concerning illegitimate children. I commend that, but given that local authorities are in many cases failing to identify a child’s lack of status in the UK, or failing to take effective action to address it, it is particularly galling that Clause 38 would effectively reward the local authority for its failure. A child who would have remained entitled to ongoing support from the local authority on leaving care, had the authority taken effective action to attain status for the child, will lose that entitlement because of the failure to act.

As Amnesty made clear in oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the other place, these children are among those who will suffer from the hostile environment being established, particularly as they approach and reach their majority. Surely that cannot be right. I hope that the Minister will tell us what steps the Government will take to ensure that that is not the result. Perhaps it is an example of the law of unintended consequences, but I hope that it is something that the noble Lord will take seriously and see whether it is something that we can rectify, if not today then between now and Report. I beg to move.

 

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Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, the Minister told us he received stern looks at the beginning of this group of amendments because of the time that they would take to consider. He has been his usual patient and courteous self in the way that he has addressed the points that have been raised, and 56 minutes on a total of 37 amendments, 26 of which were tabled by the Government, does not seem to be a wholly unreasonable time to take. Indeed, surely it is an example of this House doing its duty to scrutinise, line by line, clause by clause and schedule by schedule, a huge Bill that raises important issues which have been touched on by all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate this evening, which has been passionate and well informed. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, my noble friend Lord Hylton, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Listowel.

It was the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who reminded us of the questions put by the Children’s Commissioner. The commissioner is, after all, not a non-governmental organisation or a charity: his remit is to promote and protect children’s rights. The four questions to which the noble Baroness referred still need to be answered. She talked about the difference between “may” and “must”. This is a case of “must”: those questions must be answered.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, reminded us that turning 18 does not absolve us of our responsibilities. I was thinking of a friend of mine who asked me which were the most challenging years in bringing up my children. I said that a friend had told me that the first 30 years had been the worst, and I suspect that that is true of the experience of many of your Lordships. The children and young adults we are talking about here have no one to fend for them. They are often unaccompanied. They do not have all the resources of the state. They cannot just be left to their own devices. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was right to remind us of the consequences of people without resources sleeping rough and being pushed into destitution, and how that can lead to mental illness or become a recruiting ground for people who draw them into all sorts of bad pursuits.

As many have said, my noble friend Lord Listowel has been a tireless advocate on behalf of young people. He has huge first-hand experience, and I know that the Minister will take seriously all the points that he made this evening. I welcome what the Minister said about the continuing discussions that will take place outside your Lordships’ House after this evening. There has been some movement in the government amendments tonight—it would be churlish not to thank the Minister for that—but that young person who perhaps personifies the desire of all of us always to receive more, Oliver, may be an inspiration in those discussions. Many more things need to be done, and I hope that the Minister will ensure that, as he put it earlier, the sentiment will be followed by the detail. That is clearly what we need between now and Report. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 230D withdrawn.

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1861

 

Amendment 234A

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

234A: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—

“Conditions for grant of asylum: cases of genocide

(1) A person seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who belongs to a national, ethnical, racial or religious group which is,

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in the place from which that person originates, subject to the conditions detailed in Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, shall be presumed to meet the conditions for asylum in the United Kingdom.

(2) The adjudication of whether the group to which the person seeking asylum belongs meets the description specified in subsection (1) shall be determined by a Justice of the Supreme Court after consideration of the available facts.

(3) Applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom from groups designated under this section may submit their applications and have them assessed at British missions overseas.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, in moving the amendment, I thank those noble Lords, from all sides of your Lordships’ House, who encouraged me to table it, and especially the co-signatories, my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean. The amendment provides a presumption that a person will be granted asylum when a judge of the Supreme Court has determined that a group to which that person belongs is, in the place from which that person originates, subject to genocide. The presumption will operate in the UK but, in addition, applicants would be able to apply at British consular posts overseas. Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as follows:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

Just one week ago, in Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution condemning the actions of Daesh/ISIS in the Middle East as genocide. The resolution, “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq”, states that ISIS,

“has perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law”.

The resolution unequivocally states that the actions that ISIS has committed are genocide, and was passed by 117 votes for and just one against. While we have been considering Day 4 of the Committee stage of this Bill, the European Parliament has been debating and will, tomorrow, vote on a similar resolution to that of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, identifying the plight of minorities such as Yazidis and Christians as genocide. This is a view also shared by 75 Members of your Lordships’ House and another place, who wrote to the Prime Minister just before Christmas urging her Majesty’s Government to declare events in Syria and Iraq as a genocide. In that December letter to the Prime Minister, the signatories said:

“There is no doubt in our minds that the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities by Daesh falls within that definition”.

Signatories include the former chief of staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and the former head of MI5, the noble Lord, Lord Evans. The letter urges

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the British Government to seek agreement at the United Nations that we should name things for what they are. The letter insisted:

“This is not simply a matter of semantics. There would be two main benefits from the acceptance by the UN that genocide is being perpetrated”.

The first is that those responsible would one day face a day of judicial reckoning, and the second is that it would require the 147 states who have signed the convention to step up to the plate and,

“face up to their duty to take the necessary action to ‘prevent and punish’ the perpetrators”.

There is now clear evidence that this genocide includes assassinations of church leaders, mass murders, torture, kidnapping for ransom, the sexual enslavement and systematic rape of Christian girls and women, forcible conversions, the destruction of churches, monasteries, cemeteries and Christian artefacts and theft of lands and wealth from Christian clergy and laity alike. The caliphate has made public statements taking credit for the mass murder of Christians and expressing its intent to eliminate these minority communities and other groups, such as homosexuals, from its territory.

The Government response thus far seeks to avoid the duty set out in the convention stating:

“It is a long-standing Government policy that any judgements on whether genocide has occurred are a matter for the international judicial system rather than governments or other non-judicial bodies”.

This is a frustrating and circular argument. Which international courts and judges should decide, on the basis of what process and in considering what evidence? What steps are the Government actually taking to ensure that those courts do indeed urgently consider the matter and reach a conclusion? On 16 December in Parliamentary Answer HL4327, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns said:

“We are not submitting any evidence of possible genocide against Yazidis and Christians to international courts, nor have we been asked to”.

As for referring this matter to the International Criminal court she told me:

“I understand that, as the matter stands, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor, has determined not to take these matters forward”.—[Official Report, 16/12/15; col. 2146.]

If no one is willing to name this for what it is or to take this forward then the genocide convention becomes nothing more than window dressing and is an insult to the intention of the original drafters and ratifiers as “never again” inevitably repeats itself over and over again.

Meanwhile, people are being ruthlessly targeted, and so is their culture and history. Last week, we learned that ISIS has obliterated Mosul’s ancient, stone-walled monastery of St Elijah, dating from the sixth century, where monks had etched “chi rho”, the first Greek letters of the word “Kristos”. This attempt to eradicate memory has been accompanied by the obliteration of those whose beliefs do not comply with theirs. Last year, 200 Assyrian Christians in the Khabour river valley were kidnapped and jihadi websites showed graphic executions of some of the group, warning that others would be executed if the ransoms remained unpaid. Last August, the ancient Saint Eliane monastery

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in central Syria, which was founded more than 1,500 years ago, was destroyed by ISIS and dozens of Syriac Christians were abducted. Last year, a UN report said that ISIS continues,

“to deliberately and wantonly loot and destroy places of religious and cultural significance … which ISIS considers as un-Islamic. Generally, these sites are looted before being destroyed”.

Along with the Yazidi community, Christians have been told to convert or die. Children have been seized, propagandised and indoctrinated with jihadist ideology. That UN report warns that the situation continues to deteriorate, saying:

“UNAMI/OHCHR continues to have grave concerns for the welfare and safety of those held in ISIL captivity”.

The United Nations report states that that ISIS is holding 3,500 slaves hostage, mainly women and children. It said that ISIS has committed acts that,

“amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide”,

against minority groups, and that ISIS’s “systematic and widespread violence”, including beheadings, shootings and burnings, was “staggering”. Mass graves honeycomb part of the region. In a recent Parliamentary Answer HL4065, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, told me:

“We are aware of reports that mass graves have been discovered … at least one of which was allegedly booby trapped by Daesh”.

Murder is accompanied by other horrors. An estimated 5,000 young Yazidi women and girls have been abducted by ISIS, suffering horrific and prolonged sexual abuse. They were imprisoned for months on end, beaten, burnt and exposed to daily rape and torture. Horrifyingly, some of those victims were as young as nine. Sadly, some girls have taken their own lives in desperate attempts to escape the horrors of captivity.

10 pm

A few weeks ago I chaired a meeting here that was attended by the Archbishop of Aleppo. We were told how, in a village outside Aleppo, ISIS cut the tops off the fingers of a 14 year-old boy because his Christian father refused to convert. They then crucified the boy and killed the father. At a meeting organised by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, a former Yazidi MP, speaking here, said that she could not understand why the West had not declared these events a genocide and why we had remained silent. Hillary Clinton says that although she was reluctant to use the term “genocide” a few months ago to describe the IS atrocities, there is now “enough evidence” for her to use that word to denounce the murders of religious minorities by the jihadi group. Mrs Clinton said:

“What is happening is genocide, deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS”.

The amendment is designed to focus the debate, rouse our consciences and provide some practical help. I heard yesterday from Assyrian Christians who had been told that it may take up to six years to process their asylum applications. Many Christian refugees in Lebanon are not even registered with UNHCR, too fearful even to go into the camps. In the context of continuing threats to their security, impoverishment, lack of access to work or schooling and no hope of a home, these delays are undoubtedly contributing to

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the decision of many to undertake the hazardous journeys that we have been discussing during our proceedings, and undoubtedly many more will follow in their footsteps. Given that the Weidenfeld Fund, Mercury One and Operation Safe Havens are able to process applications and do the necessary security clearances—to a higher standard than UNHCR—in a matter of weeks, such delays are completely unacceptable. The late Lord Weidenfeld’s decision to create a special fund to assist Syrian Christians should inspire us all to do more. Although the noble Lord, Lord Bates, said in a Parliamentary Answer to me only yesterday:

“We recognise the plight faced by vulnerable women and girls in the region, and particularly Yazidi women who have escaped following enslavement by ISIS”,

and although the Government detail the significant sums of money that they provide for humanitarian relief, the reality is that Yazidis and Assyrian Christians have simply not been prioritised.

I urge the Government to collect the evidence—the names; the dates; the photographs of atrocities; the numbers killed, tortured, abducted or sold into sexual slavery; the accounts of forced conversions; the churches, shrines and manuscripts destroyed—and to trigger the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice and to name this for what it is. Words matter. History proves that once the word “genocide” is used to designate heinous and targeted crimes against sections of humanity, as in Yugoslavia or Cambodia, it is followed by swift international action to stop those atrocities. The Khmer Rouge prosecution continues and includes charges of genocide against the Cham and Vietnamese people, so there are precedents.

The amendment would ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to examine the evidence and make a determination. It would provide a process and duty to act. It would then ensure that victims of genocide were given priority in asylum applications. This is not about numbers, nor about those who threaten the security and ideals for which this country stands. Many suffer, but this is about those who have been singled out and our duty under the genocide convention to protect them. I commend the amendment to the Committee, and I beg to move.

Baroness Cox (CB): My Lords, I support the amendment, to which I am a signatory. Last week, my noble friend Lord Alton and I presided over a hearing here in Parliament, where we heard graphic accounts of genocide and crimes against humanity from Yazidis and Christians from Syria and Iraq. Their first- hand testimonies were accompanied by supporting statements from relief organisations and charities working with these beleaguered communities, including Canon Andrew White, the courageous Anglican vicar of Baghdad.

Some 100 years after the Armenian genocide, these contemporary events are a continuation of a systematic campaign of annihilation which was planned by one caliphate, abolished in 1924 by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey but continued by another caliphate under the guise of the Islamic State—Daesh—today. Mass graves, beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, lootings and confiscation of property, are, sadly, nothing new. Nor is our failure to respond adequately to acutely vulnerable minorities.

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This amendment is not about the misplaced free-for-all mistakenly promoted by Germany and now being urgently reassessed: nor is it about quotas or the unseemly bidding war about how many people any particular country has taken. Instead, the amendment focuses on a particularly vulnerable group of people now being subjected to genocide and argues that their asylum claims should be prioritised. Our first priority should always be those who have been singled out because of their religion, ethnicity or race. Although many people have been caught up in this suffering, we have particular obligations, as my noble friend highlighted, under the provisions of the Genocide Convention, to these minority groups. We also know that those who have been targeted do not represent a security threat to the United Kingdom and that, unlike for other categories of people, there are no countries in the region where they will be secure in the long term. They have nowhere to go.

In November I and my noble friend wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to give priority to the most vulnerable—these minorities and children. We welcomed his decision to take vulnerable groups from holding countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, but we also pointed out that many of those fleeing from genocide have been too frightened to enter the camps and were living in informal settings, often without any help being given by UN agencies. In December, I was also a signatory to the letter sent to the Prime Minister—which my noble friend referred to—signed by 75 parliamentarians from both Houses and all sides, urging Her Majesty’s Government to name this genocide for what it is. So far, HMG have failed to do so—but, last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared that the treatment of Christians and Yazidis is indeed genocide.

Our colleagues in the House of Commons have been equally clear. I share with the House the wording of the all-party Motion tabled last week by a group of MPs in another place, which stated that,

“this House is appalled by the beheadings, crucifixions, shootings, burnings, other murders, torture, rape and extensive violence being perpetrated by Daesh or IS against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq on the basis of religion and ethnicity; observes that this disgusting behaviour clearly falls within the definition of genocide as determined by the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; notes the recent report from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq,

Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict in Iraq

, which concludes that Daesh is holding approximately 3,500 slaves, mostly women and children in Iraq, primarily from the Yazidi community, and describes Daesh’s systematic and widespread violence as staggering, concluding that these acts amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide; and calls on the Government to use all its influence at the UN to create a stated consensus that genocide is indeed being perpetrated so that the provisions of the Convention can urgently, legitimately and effectively be invoked and implemented”.

We should commend our colleagues, such as Mrs Fiona Bruce MP, the chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, who tabled that Motion, and we should give legislative force to an appropriate response to those who are suffering so grievously. This is urgent, as Christianity and ancient religions such as Yazidism are being wiped out in the Middle East.

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Last week’s hearing took place on Holocaust Memorial Day. Among those who participated was Major General Tim Cross. He has said:

“Crucially, the various minorities in the region are suffering terribly. There can be no doubt that genocide is being carried out on Yazidi and Christian communities—and the West/international community’s failure to recognise what is happening will be to our collective shame in years to come”.

He also pointed to the irony that while we are neglecting our duty to protect these minorities we have been opening the door to others who may threaten the very fabric of our society.

Major General Cross quoted the Lebanese Prime Minister, who told David Cameron that he believed that for every 1,000 migrants entering Europe illegally there are at least two extremists—inner-core jihadis—which means that around 16,000 IS fighters have probably entered Europe over the last year or so. While we have been doing this, we have failed to protect those to whom we have a specific duty under international law. Major General Cross said:

“Our dilemma is how we separate ‘values’ and ‘interests’”.

This amendment offers us the opportunity to uphold our values, especially our belief in the rule of law, while also protecting our interests.

If we are not prepared to respond to the victims of genocide, we must seriously ask whether we should remove our signature from the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide. What is the point of being a signatory if we are not prepared to accept the obligation—to see, to judge and to act? If we do not take such obligations seriously, as the amendment urges us to do, it fundamentally undermines that convention.

To remind noble Lords of what our obligations are, the convention makes it clear that genocide is not a random killing of individuals but a systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. That group may be,

“national, ethnical, racial or religious”.

The treaty identifies acts committed with intent to destroy that group,

“in whole or in part”.

The convention also covers within the term “genocide” a range of other acts already highlighted by my noble friend.

In short, international law is clear and undeniably covers the many horrors unleashed by ISIL/Daesh in the Middle East—and, I may point out, by Islamist extremists in other countries, including several African states such as northern Nigeria and Sudan, both of which I have visited in the last two months and where I saw comparable horrors and atrocities perpetrated.

If an international law, defined by treaty, is being flouted, and if hundreds of thousands of innocent people who are entitled to rely on the protection of that law are being killed, and millions are being driven from their homes, it is absolutely incumbent on the signatories to that treaty to take action to ensure that it is enforced. Sadly, however, to date the issue has not been high on the agenda of the leaders of more than 100 nations that are signatories to that convention.

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The convention is specific. The signatory nations may honour their commitments either by acting alone or by calling on the United Nations to prevent and punish genocide. That provision is hugely important in sending a clear message to the perpetrators of these dreadful acts: it warns them that they will be punished. So how can officials argue and give ambiguous replies that we can do nothing until others act? From the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders after the Second World War to the more recent trials for genocide perpetrated in Rwanda and Bosnia, a very clear message should go out to all those involved in these evil movements of genocide. The message should be: the international community will, sooner or later, come for you. You will be found, you will be captured, you will be tried in accordance with the convention and you will be punished proportionately to your offence. And, as this amendment insists most importantly, we will care for those whom you target in these unspeakable ways.

I urge our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to utter that one word, “genocide”. By using it in relation to the carnage befalling the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in the Middle East, Her Majesty’s Government would be sending a clear message to ISIS and other groups that there will be a reckoning for their despicable actions.

In conclusion, Britain punches far above its weight in world diplomacy and international relations. We must ask our Government to have the courage to speak the right word to the international community and to follow the word with appropriate deeds. This amendment is an opportunity for us to do just that. At the very minimum, I hope that the Minister will undertake to go back to the Home Secretary and other ministerial colleagues and weigh these arguments with great care between now and Report.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in any of the proceedings on this legislation. Quarter past 10 at night in the middle of the week seems, perhaps, not the best moment to set forth on this matter. However, I am ashamed to say that until I was briefed by a friend, Mr Graham Hutton, chairman of the Aid to the Church in Need, about the position of Christians in Syria and Iraq, I was wholly ignorant of the extent of the atrocities that are occurring.

10.15 pm

I do not wish to detain the House by repeating examples that have been given by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. Both of them are held in the highest regard in this House but, if I may say so, particularly the noble Baroness, who seems to put herself in harm’s way on behalf of people in trouble all over the world and to provide us with an authoritative account. So I say to my noble friend the Minister: throw away the brief from the Home Office and go back to the department and tell it what has been said this evening. I am certain that, despite the media coverage and the information that is available, people in this country have no idea of the extent of the horrors that are being perpetrated against Christians.

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In Syria, 56% of Christians have left during this conflict. The point about them is that they are not just fleeing civil war, they are fleeing persecution, and there is nowhere for them to flee to. If they go to the UN camps, they find themselves in fear and in danger because they are a minority there and subject to persecution. If they do not go to the official camps, they are not eligible under the Prime Minister’s programme to be brought to this country. So they have no place to go and wherever they go they live in fear. The magnitude of this catastrophe is enormous. I am told that, prior to 2003, there were 60,000 Christians in Mosul, and now there is none. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has described the appalling atrocities that are going on day after day to people, including women and children, simply because they are Christians.

I do not wish to repeat the arguments about the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of genocide, except to say that it does say that genocide is the systematic killing or serious harming of people because they are part of a recognisable group. These people are being persecuted because they are Christians, and that is a recognised group. As has been pointed out, the importance of designating this as genocide is that it will enable us to take action and give these people sanctuary quickly and effectively as they need it.

I am told there are people who say that we cannot be seen to be discriminating in favour of Christians. Why not? This is a Christian country, and these people are in trouble because they are being discriminated against because of their religion. I say to the Minister that the plight we have heard of this evening is of fellow Christians, some of whom speak in the language of our saviour and who have been there since the birth of Christ himself. They are being driven out of their lands and horribly persecuted. We should not pass by on the other side. If it is impossible for the Government to adopt the suggestions contained in this amendment of recognising genocide for what it is, then at the very least they need to come up with some ideas as to how a safe haven can be provided for those Christians and how they can be helped by us, a Christian country with a historic record of being there for those in need.

When I studied history at university, I could never really understand how it was that the Nazi persecution of the Jews was allowed to go on for so long and that people were either unaware or unwilling to take action. In those days, there was at least the excuse that people might not know because communications were difficult. We know what is going on in Syria and Iraq daily, from the internet and the videos and the information provided. Even at this late hour, I hope that the Minister will take on board what has been said on this amendment and, if he cannot accept the amendment, that the Government will take some effective and urgent action to deal with those Christians, our brothers and sisters, in Syria and Iraq.

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, anyone who went to any of the events connected with Holocaust Memorial Day just a few days ago will know that people said in 1945, “Never again”. Then we had serious tragedies and genocides in Bosnia, South Sudan and elsewhere. We keep saying that it must never happen again but it still does. I found the arguments put by the three

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Members of the Committee who have spoken to the amendment very powerful. They are in the spirit of the commitments made on Holocaust Memorial Day—“Never again”. They are saying that because it is still happening we have to do something about the victims. I very much support the amendment.

Lord Marlesford (Con): My Lords, the Government should be rather ashamed that this debate is necessary. It has taken the whole consideration of the Bill on to a different plane from all the other amendments that I have listened to. It is so terrible that so-called diplomacy should be unable to do what is right. I have been deeply shocked that the Government, in being asked to give priority to Christians among the 20,000 Syrians who we are to admit during this Parliament as refugees, have said that they cannot do so because they cannot discriminate. The whole concept of refugees and asylum is discrimination. It is giving succour to those who need succour. I will go no further except to say that if the amendment were to come back to the House at Report and the Government resist it, they would be overwhelmingly and humiliatingly defeated.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, apart from all the powerful arguments of support that have been put forward, the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is one that we must all take particularly seriously. No one in this House has put their own life more on the line on issues of this kind than she has, and she has consistently done that with great courage. When she comes to us and says, “Please take this one step that would help, in terms of all that I have experienced”, we must take that seriously. I also feel very deeply that there is a real crisis in credibility with populations across the world. Governments speak with great rhetoric about these issues, but sometimes fail to provide the practical evidence that that rhetoric adds up to anything. Here is a chance to demonstrate that we mean what we say.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, from these Benches I support the amendment. When I first started going to ceremonies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, what struck me most were the current examples that were used and of which we were reminded. Each year a theme is chosen and it is salutary to realise how topical those themes are. This is topical. There are many groups of people who are the subject of the treatment which has been described, and it has been notable during debate on this Bill how many noble Lords have referred to the experiences of their families. We may not be directly related to the people who are in such a situation, but as noble Lords have pointed out, we are all part of that one family.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate either, but having listened to the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Forsyth, and others, I cannot help but raise a voice on behalf of the Christian community. We are to a greater or lesser extent Christians in this country. We may not be very good Christians, but the idea that we cannot intervene on behalf of a Christian community because we might be discriminating strikes me as being absolutely

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unacceptable and appalling. I hope that the Government will take close notice of that and think about this serious issue.

Lord Bates: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his moving speech. He spoke with his typical passion, and the way he presented the arguments and the accounts he gave have certainly had a great effect on me. I think that he has done a great service to the Committee by drawing the plight of Christians in the Middle East to our attention. My noble friend Lord Forsyth invited me to tear up my speech before he had actually had an opportunity to hear it, and of course he invited me to do it while I am currently enjoying the privilege of the company of the Chief Whip, who perhaps is little worried that I might take my noble friend’s advice.

I feel very strongly about this. We cannot be anything other than moved by the brutality and evil that we are seeing unleashed in the Middle East by Daesh. I have seen something of the situation for myself on a personal visit to Zahlé, which is the capital city of the Bekaa Valley and a Christian community. I am acutely aware of the pressures to which people are subject out there. However, I cannot accept that this Government are not doing everything they can; we are leading the way. We are in the week—tomorrow, I think—when the Prime Minister will host a conference on Syria here in London, just across the way. He will urge other people to step up to the mark. A DfID report pointed out that Britain is paying more than its fair share. It recognised that we are paying 226% of our international obligation in terms of cash to support people in the region. We are hosting the event and acting diplomatically by urging for a solution to the crisis, and of course we are also acting militarily in the region.

We need to put on the record some of these points because I think some myths are arising within the Christian community, and I say this very carefully as a member of that community. Some myths are emerging about where the discrimination occurs. We are not saying that Christians will not be considered but that they will be considered on an individual basis, and the criteria we are looking at, particularly within the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement scheme, include women and girls at risk, those in need of serious medical care, and the survivors of torture and violence. Of course, in all the accounts we have heard about, they would certainly seem to be people who would qualify under that definition by what they have suffered and what they have experienced when they present to the authorities rather than by a general description. That is the central case we have put. At the moment, the basic principle is that applicants for refugee status must establish their need for protection on an individual basis, and for that reason we do not think that putting this to the Supreme Court is necessarily the right way. We believe that under the current rules, we have the ability to help the people who are in need.

We also need to put on the record at this point that the people who are actually suffering the greatest brutality at the hands of Daesh are fellow Muslims in the region—and the Yazidis, the Kurdish groups, that are there as well. They are suffering, too, and our

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prime driving force when providing international humanitarian protection, which is what it is, is on the basis of need. That will continue to be our position.

I am very happy to meet noble Lords who have an interest in this area, with officials, to ensure that our system is sufficiently sensitive to understand what is happening on the ground—and the accounts of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and the experiences of the Bishop of Aleppo. We want that understanding so that it can inform our decision-making and ensure that our system is correct and appropriate. I reiterate that those Christians who are female, at risk of persecution, survivors of torture and/or violence are exactly the people that our systems of humanitarian aid in the region and our systems of relocation to this country are designed to help.

10.30 pm

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am grateful to my noble friend. I entirely accept what he says about Muslims being subject to horrors as well as Christians, but could he deal with the point that the problem for Christians is that they cannot go to the official camps because they fear for their safety, because, once again, they are a minority? Is there any possibility of creating some kind safe haven? That in itself may create a further security problem for them. The genocide point is that it would enable immediate action to be taken.

Lord Bates: Certainly, the situation is that we would take families from within the camps and from the surrounding areas. It is not exclusively from the camps; it is those who are identified as being in greatest need. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, raises an interesting point on the camps. I shall certainly feed that back to the department and seek some reassurance, and perhaps write to him and other noble Lords on what protections are arranged in the camps where DfID and others are involved to be sensitive to the needs of Christians.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I thank my noble friend Lady Cox, the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth, Lord Dubs, Lord Marlesford and Lord Judd, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, for their contributions to the debate and for supporting the amendment. I thank the Minister as well for the characteristic way in which he has tried to deal with the arguments that have been raised during our debate.

He mentioned the conference that will be taking place tomorrow. Last week I attended a briefing that was hosted by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. Throughout the presentation, not once was the position of minorities mentioned. I specifically raised that at the end of the presentation and the Secretary of State was helpful in her response, but it was not a presentation about events on the ground; it was about money being provided in humanitarian relief and aid. Important though that is, it is not the subject of the amendment and it is not the subject of my concern. I pay tribute to the Government for what they have done by way of humanitarian aid and I agree with them that countries such as Germany, which is co-hosting the conference, need to do more on that front and that we need to

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tackle these problems at source. Until we rectify some of the reasons why people are being driven out of their homeland, we will continue to see this exodus of biblical proportions.

The Minister and I are on the same page on that. I agree with what the Government are doing in that respect, but money and aid are not the same as recognising what is happening on the ground as a genocide. That is why I cited the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last week. We will see what the European Parliament decides today, but other national Parliaments, the 75 Members of both Houses, and the Motion referred to by my noble friend in the House of Commons last week say something altogether different, which is why the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said he was ashamed that this debate was necessary at all. So am I in many respects; we should not need to be debating this.

The Supreme Court is different from the Government. It is one step aside. If there is no evidence to demonstrate that there is genocide then the Supreme Court would say that. The Justices of the Supreme Court would make that determination and nothing further would have to happen. But if it decided that there was a prima facie case of genocide, then it would kick-start all the other things that need to happen, especially the special status that would then be given to those groups who had been targeted. Yes, they include Christians, but not Christians alone. They would be prioritised because they are victims of genocide. That would be the reason.

I am grateful for what the noble Lord said about meeting those of us who proposed the amendment tonight. I welcome that and certainly I would be happy to take part in discussions between now and Report, but it is important that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Justice and DfID, which the Minister referred to, are also part and parcel of that discussion. I know that some of the pressures against doing something on this issue have come from other departments.

We were told during this brief debate that we should recognise the magnitude of this catastrophe, but people had no idea of the scale of what is happening. There cannot be decent societies in the Middle East without plurality, diversity, tolerance and respect. Surely those have to be the reasons why we put this at the very top of the agenda. I have said before that Einstein’s definition of insanity is simply doing the same thing over and over again. Whatever military campaigns we have, however necessary it may be to engage in military action, will not fundamentally change things on the ground. What marks us out as different from organisations such as ISIS is our belief in the rule of law. Surely this goes to the very heart of what it means to believe in the rule of law and to uphold conventions that we are signatories to and which impose on us a duty to protect and to prosecute.

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but I also give notice that I intend to bring this back on Report if we are unable to make appropriate progress.

Amendment 234A withdrawn.

Amendment 234AA not moved.

3 Feb 2016 : Column 1900

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Parliamentary debate on the security and human rights challenges on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s recent nuclear test. Motion tabled by Fiona Bruce MP in the House of Commons.

 

We should enter negotiations which guarantee human rights, such as free exchange of people and religious liberties ... By linking the present crisis with the human rights violations, a crisis can be turned into an opportunity. To do nothing about North Korea would be the most dangerous option of all.”north korea map 2

Visit the All Party Group on North Korea Web Site for Details of forthcoming 2016 events:

http://appgnk.org/gallery/

North Korea: Nuclear Test

Question for Short Debate

2.08 pm: January 21st 2016

Asked by

Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the security and human rights challenges on the Korean Peninsula following North Korea’s recent nuclear test.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB):

My Lords, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the division of the Korean peninsula. That division was the prelude to the 1950-53 war, which led to the deaths of about 3 million people, including 1,000 British servicemen.

Throughout the intervening seven decades, the danger of a repetition of that carnage has hung like a pall over the region. For more than 10 years, during which I have chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, that group has tried to shine a light on security threats and the day-to-day egregious violations of human rights. These are themes of the Question before your Lordships today. I am particularly indebted to all noble Lords who will participate.

North Korea’s failure to make constructive moves on these questions was thrown into sharp relief by the unverifiable claim in North Korean state media on 6 January that it had conducted its first hydrogen bomb—thermonuclear weapon—test. Ban Ki-moon described these actions—this fourth nuclear test—as “a grave contravention”.

When the Minister replies, I hope that she will give us her own assessment of the test which has taken place, and perhaps say how long she thinks it will be before we know whether this was fusion rather than fission and whether hydrogen isotopes were used in the nuclear chain reaction. Also, how far away do we think North Korea is from miniaturising a nuclear weapon and from utilising its submarines to launch nuclear attacks? These have obvious security implications for the United States of America and Europe, as well, of course, for North Korea’s regional neighbours.

What we do know is that Chinese citizens living in the neighbouring Jilin province, which I visited, felt the buildings shake and residents feared an earthquake. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Organization reported seismic signatures with a magnitude of 4.85, consistent with previous North Korean nuclear tests. Whether a hydrogen bomb or not, this action is yet another road block in securing a lasting peace and it represents a serious international security threat and destabilises the region. In addition, it is in flagrant violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087 and 2094. I should be interested to know from the noble Baroness what more the Security Council will be saying about this.

I hope that she will tell us what response the Foreign and Commonwealth office received from the North Korean ambassador when he was summoned to the Foreign Office on 7 January, and what the Foreign Secretary had in mind when he told the House of Commons that North Korea will,

“face increasing isolation and further action by the international community”.—[Official Report, Commons, 13/1/16; col. 22WS.]

I wonder whether the Foreign Office sees this test as an act of defiance by Kim Jong-un and an attempt to bolster his authority. What does it make of the continuing systematic executions, including members of his family? In 2013 his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who was seen as reform-minded and close to China, was executed. Jang had questioned an ideology which has paralysed economic development and incarcerated hundreds of thousands of citizens, which has conferred pariah status on the country. He was close to China and admiring of its reform programme. His death was followed by the execution of around 70 officials in the last year. North Korea’s Defence Minister, Hyon Yong-chol, was shot with an anti-aircraft gun from close range in April. It was then reported that North Korea’s vice-premier Choe Yong-gon was executed by firing squad this year, after showing discontent with Kim Jong-un’s policies.

Kim Jong-un knew these men well, but this did not save their lives. In this reign of terror, killing those who are not part of your circle is even less of an issue. The purges, the reign of terror, the falsifying of history, the show trials, the network of gulags—where an estimated 200,000 people are incarcerated—the 400,000 said to have died in the prison camps in the last 30 years, and the attempts to obliterate religious belief and all political dissent bear all the hallmarks of a regime that has carefully studied, admires and imitates the visceral brutality of Joseph Stalin. The authoritarian dynastic regime in North Korea ruthlessly crushes dissent, and through its policy of guilt by association, collective punishment and the execution of men like Jang is trying to ensure that there is no Kim Dae-jung, Lech Walesa or Dow Aung San Suu Kyi able to become a focal point for opposition.

We can see these killings either as a display of strength or the actions of a weak regime, paranoically trying to cling to power at all costs. Of course, the creation of mass fear is a time-honoured technique of dictators from Nero and Caligula to Ceausescu and Stalin. But China’s role in all this is surely crucial. I wonder how the Minister evaluates the extent of China’s influence on the regime. It previously described North Korea’s actions as “brazen”, but notwithstanding the presence of a senior Chinese emissary at last year’s Workers’ Party anniversary celebrations, what do we make of China’s relationship with North Korea today? Will China’s irritation be reflected in energy assistance to North Korea, or will she be dissuaded through fear of regime collapse and the flow of refugees across its 800-mile border with North Korea?

If North Korea is in total contempt of its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and by its refusal to permit full access by the International Atomic Energy Agency, its contempt for human rights puts it in a league of its own. The publication of the United Nation’s Commission of Inquiry report into human rights violations in North Korea, described by the commission as “without parallel”, was a defining moment. In that 400-page report, it said that North Korea’s crimes against humanity are sui generis. It stated:

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It is in breach of pretty well all of the 30 articles in the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Hea Woo, a Christian who escaped from one of the camps, gave graphic and powerful evidence at one of our Westminster hearings. She described routine torture and beatings and how prisoners were so hungry that they were reduced to eating rats and snakes or even searching for grains in cow dung.

I ask the noble Baroness how we have taken forward the Commission of Inquiry report and its call for the prosecution of those responsible? Why, of the 2016-17 FCO fund for human rights and democracy, which has been doubled to £10.6 million, has just £4,261 been spent in Pyongyang in nearly two and a half years? Can she also say what we have done to raise the plight of the more than 50,000 North Korean workers sent overseas to around 20 nations, where they are treated as virtual slave labour but earning the regime $300 million annually? What action are we taking on companies, third-party banks and countries which are breaking sanctions and providing revenues to this regime? Crucial to transforming North Korea will be the breaking of the information blockade. I applaud the decision of the BBC to commence broadcasts to the peninsula and hope that we will be given an update on this important development.

Does the Minister accept that hand-outs can bolster this regime? Although food should never be used as a weapon of war, it is worth saying that North Korea’s food gap could be closed for something in the order of $8 million to $19 million. That is less than 0.2% of its national income, most of which is currently being used on military programmes.

Last year, following an influx of food aid, the regime sent groups of students around to destroy private agricultural plots. The regime’s opposition to reform has led to starvation and death. People suffer while the regime spent more than $1 billion on the launching of two rockets in 2012 and 2013, $200 million on Kim family celebrations, and $300 million on luxury facilities, including ski resorts and riding grounds.

North Korea is surrounded by three of the world’s largest economies, yet close to 70% of the population suffer from malnourishment. It persists with its vast and brutal network of concentration camps, and millions of women are subjected to unimaginable levels of sexual and other violence while children are indoctrinated and forced to endure manual labour.

Since 2000 we have had diplomatic relations with the DPRK and in that time the regime has conducted four nuclear tests, launched unprovoked military attacks on South Korean targets, has bolstered its standing army—one of the largest in the world—and has been condemned for the worst human rights record in the world. It is not unreasonable to ask how and in what ways we think we are making some kind of difference. I look forward to the debate that will follow and to the Minister’s reply.

2.18 pm

North Korea -Execution of Chang Song Thaeknorth korea executions

Jang Song-thaek taken to his execution. When they kill your uncle or your Chief of Defence Staff what chance has anybody else got?

 

Baroness Berridge (Con):

My Lords, thankfully North Korea is the only closed country and I think this should give us hope, as many who grew up in or in the era of Eastern Europe and the USSR thought that freedom would never come, but it did. Kim Jong-un’s leadership will end, and through the work of people like the noble Lord, Lord Alton, awareness of the plight of North Koreans has risen dramatically over the last decade.

These unparalleled systematic human rights abuses in North Korea are indeed well documented by the commission of inquiry of Michael Kirby, and in relation to religious freedom violations by the inquiry of the all-party parliamentary group, which was chaired by the noble Lord and published its report last year. The only detail that I can add to that report that moved me recently was to hear that teachers in schools in North Korea are asking pupils to tell them whether their mum and dad have a hidden little black book at home. Unwittingly these children come forward, and of course, what is hidden is a Bible and their parents are arrested and disappear. These reports have shown the need to break the information blockade. There is also a need to prepare the leadership of the future. There may be more that can be done to prepare, and I wish to focus this afternoon on practical solutions and things within our power here in the United Kingdom.

The decision, referenced by the noble Lord, of the BBC to begin a daily short-wave news service is a step forward in breaking this information blockade. It would be helpful to know the detail from my noble friend the Minister. When does the Foreign Secretary expect to be asked to agree to this service and what is the current Foreign and Commonwealth Office position on whether it can extend beyond news to other broadcasts?

There are many interesting studies on the growing cultural, linguistic and religious differences between North Korea and South Korea. In the 70 years since the division of the peninsula, North Koreans have been taught to worship their political leader like a god, but South Korean society is pluralistic and has recently seen a huge growth in the Christian faith in particular. In 1945, only 2% of South Koreans were Christian; now 30% are. Those growing differences mean that the 26,000 or so North Korean refugees in South Korea often find it hard to integrate, and feel like second-class citizens. According to a BBC report late last year, 14% of defectors from North Korea in South Korea who have died committed suicide. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister could confirm whether Her Majesty’s Government had spoken to South Korea outlining our concerns around the integration of those refugees into its society. Until the South Koreans address this problem, the push factor forcing North Koreans to flee South Korea will mean that some will continue to arrive here in the United Kingdom, applying for asylum. Australia and Canada, among others, face a similar issue.

Even highly qualified doctors from the north struggle to make the transition to the south. Surely the international community can help with specific plans to skill up professionals for the future of North Korea, and not see those valuable skills go to waste. I can fully understand the comments in the Security Council last November that the international community had struggled to agree a plan of action in relation to the Kirby report. However, a plan to ensure that North Koreans can remain in the region and that those abroad are trained up, ready for reunification, is in the doable category, which is often sparsely populated with solutions to many of the tragic situations that we discuss in your Lordships’ House.

I turn briefly to the leadership of the future. Even if the South Koreans solved the integration problem tomorrow, there would still be approximately 1,000 North Koreans who have been granted refugee status here in the United Kingdom. If North Korea became free tomorrow many might travel there, hoping to be part of the future of the country. Then the Westminster Foundation for Democracy would ask MPs and Peers, via our political parties, to go out there to train up the future politicians. As North Korea is a unique case—we have no access to train people in North Korea—could the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the human rights and democracy fund merely ask the WFD specifically to see if half a dozen folk among our 1,000 refugees had the potential skills and competence to be future leaders and invest in them here? I am sure that many in your Lordships’ House would respond to the persuasive power of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and be happy to help. That would really cost very little—definitely cheaper than flying us out there, and so much better value for money for the UK taxpayer in the long term. If your Lordships were involved, we could make requests of the royal colleges, Bupa or AXA to train up one North Korean doctor; we would not be requesting them to do something that we had not started doing here ourselves. More things could be done to prepare for reunification than we at first think, and many of our allies—particularly Germany—may have other relevant experience to offer.

I hope that there is a plan for the future under the leadership of South Korea, as well as a plan to bring to justice those who have committed human rights abuses. When nations change, there is often a symbolic moment. In Iraq in 2003, that was the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. In North Korea when that moment comes, many statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un will be toppled. I believe that that will happen in my lifetime, and I hope that we are ready for that moment.

2.24 pm

Lord Rowe-Beddoe (CB):

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Alton for securing this short debate. The DPRK—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea—is in itself a name that would not qualify under any trade descriptions Act. It is not democratic; it does not represent the people; neither is “Korea” correct, for that implies the whole peninsula. However, that is but a comprehensive illustration of the nightmare that this world has to confront and face.

Unlike my noble friends Lady Cox and Lord Alton, I have never had the opportunity to visit, although I have certainly viewed the 38th parallel closely on my many business trips to the south over the past 20 or so years. I speak therefore from second-hand knowledge, by study, by observation, by discussions with people from the south and—all-importantly—from encounters with refugees living in or visiting the United Kingdom.

I wish to use these few minutes to highlight one thing: the importance of breaking the blockade of information, as was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Alton. Why have we not seen a popular uprising against the regime, or perhaps acts of mass civil disobedience? It is due partly to the physical brutality of the regime but, significantly, also to the indoctrination of the North Korean people, whose Government wish to ensure complete psychological control over the entire population. It is therefore forbidden to access foreign media. All North Koreans are exposed to state-controlled media in their homes, work and public spaces. As well, all television and radio—state information—is broadcast through fixed-line speakers in every household. Those speakers are inspected frequently to ensure that they function and cannot be turned off. One refugee stated to a United Nations commission of inquiry:

“You are brainwashed from the time you know how to talk … North Korea is … a fenced world … They want the people to be blind, deaf to the outside world”.

The United Kingdom Government had been unconvinced that radio broadcasts would reach sufficient numbers of North Koreans due to a lack of radios. However, after persistent lobbying discussions—if I may use that word—by members of the all-party group, at last, in 2015, our noble friend Lord Hall, director-general of the BBC, declared that the World Service would reach out to North Koreans through a daily news programme on short wave. The BBC is of course aware of the consequences for those caught consuming foreign media, but should it not broadcast into North Korea for fear that citizens, if caught, are tried and perhaps executed for listening? I believe the answer to be emphatically no. Although the risks are high, there are even greater consequences of inaction. Pyongyang will of course attempt to answer, censor and jam the broadcasts. No doubt it will lodge formal protests to our embassy and open, yet again, the bag of threats. However, in an age of global interconnectivity, it is my belief that such actions will be diminished in their harm.

For a BBC service to become a reality today, the corporation has to put together a team to decide and deliver the content. I hope that this will include UK-based North Korean refugees. Once that is done and costed, I understand that the plan will be submitted to the Foreign Secretary, who will then be required to approve the service. Perhaps the Minister will comment on a timetable. It is my sincere hope that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sees such broadcasts as complementary to its own efforts to improve human rights within that country.

2.29 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD):

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for giving us this opportunity to debate this important issue. I will concentrate my remarks on the security aspects following the nuclear test. In doing so, I declare my interest as co-president of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

It is both heartening and disheartening that, in these last few weeks, we have had the great example of success of talks in Iran and then the very disheartening example of the nuclear test in Korea. It shows what the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and associated treaties are up against. It goes to the heart of our obligations under the NPT—by “our”, I mean in particular the nuclear weapons possessing states, the P5 plus.

Noble Lords will remember that the nuclear non-proliferation treaty began life in 1970. In fact, North Korea acceded to it in the mid-1980s, but it never came into compliance and it withdrew from the treaty in 2003. The treaty has an unprecedented number of countries belonging to it—191, in fact—which could make it the most successful arms-limitation and disarmament treaty that there is. Only four UN member states have never joined the NPT: India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan. Today’s debate is not the time to discuss the implications of that, but it is something that we need to keep in mind.

The point I make is that the situation in North Korea has been decades in developing. In nuclear terms, we knew, once it withdrew from the treaty in 2003, that we had a real problem on our hands. The question for the Minister is: who does she believe is in the best position to start that dialogue with North Korea about nuclear issues now? I noticed the comments of Mr Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State for the US, that China should take the lead. He said that the United States believes that,

“China has a special role to play”.

If China is to be the one to take the lead, there has to be a real push from all of us other countries for China to do so.

The point I would really strongly like to make is that every country concerned with nuclear material has a special role and responsibility. Being part of the so-called nuclear club may, some believe, give you added status as a world power and the added security of owning a deterrent. Personally, I do not believe that either of those is inevitably correct. However, it is indisputable that, as a member of that nuclear power club, one has a special duty to ensure the safety of non-nuclear states and the rest of the world. In this context, China has a duty to do everything it can do to denuclearise North Korea. Because it is probably closer to North Korea than anyone else, China is in the best position to do so. I have no doubt that there are incredibly complex political considerations and insecurities that will influence this, but the overwhelming danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons means that that issue has to take priority.

For our part, we—the UK, USA and France—should see nuclear material as a potential continuum from energy to material for bombs. The purpose of the various treaties—the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, the CTBT and the NPT—is to contain it and make it as safe as possible. Of course, the USA undermined the NPT with its civil nuclear deal with India, which, as I mentioned, is not a member of the NPT, even though it had not joined the club. Israel is allowed to remain in the position where it does not declare its nuclear weapons. In that continuum, the UK also made a decision—there may have been behind-the-scenes talks about this, I do not know—to allow the Chinese to buy into Hinkley Point. That is tacitly saying that all is satisfactory with the Chinese attitude to nuclear material in general and the treaties governing it, but clearly that is not in the case as far as North Korea is concerned.

The logic by which the P5 plus decide who shall and shall not be a nuclear state has not been historically arrived at by the logic of those that are the most responsible countries. But it is by virtue of being in the P5 that we have to exercise our responsibilities in every possible sphere, including trade, and make it quite clear to those whom we trade with and those who can influence other people—in this case, China and North Korea—that there is a continuum in nuclear material and that we have to stay within the terms of the treaty.

2.35 pm

Baroness Cox (CB):

My Lords, I warmly congratulate my noble friend on his tireless work on North Korea, and on opening this debate with characteristic comprehensiveness. I have had the privilege of travelling to DPRK with my noble friend three times, and of meeting many refugees and escapees, whose heartbreaking accounts of horrific violations of human rights remain ingrained in my heart and conscience.

In addition to echoing the serious concerns highlighted by my noble friend and other noble Lords, I wish to highlight specific concerns regarding infringements of freedom of religion and belief, including the recent arrests of two foreign nationals. First, Hyeon Soo Lim, a South Korean-born Canadian Christian, is a 60 year-old pastor. He is a Canadian citizen, but he was sentenced last December to life imprisonment with hard labour, accused of using religion to overthrow the state and harming the dignity of the supreme leadership. He had previously made many visits to DPRK and engaged in humanitarian work supporting an orphanage, a nursery and a nursing home. A CNN report emphasised:

“It is this tremendous love for the people of the DPRK that motivated Mr. Lim to travel (there)”.

Unusually, he was recently able to give an interview to CNN, in which he described being forced to work for eight hours a day digging holes. He is believed to be in poor health, but all he asks for is a Bible and letters from his family. I understand that Canadian government officials have so far been denied access to him. Secondly, a Korean-American pastor, Kim Dong Chul, has been arrested on spying charges.

The arrest and detention of these two foreigners is deeply disturbing as they illustrate the Pyongyang regime’s attitude to human rights and religious freedom. I ask the Minister: what response is the United Kingdom making to these arrests, and, particularly given our diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, what support has the UK given to the efforts of Canada and the United States regarding these two cases? More generally, what more can the United Kingdom do to address the violations of freedom of religion or belief in the DPRK?

On the same topic, I highlight serious concerns about a recent statement by the World Council of Churches. On 28 October last year, the WCC’s Forum for Peace, Reunification and Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula issued a Pyongyang appeal following a visit to DPRK. I entirely support efforts to pursue constructive and critical engagement with the DPRK. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Alton and I have participated in such direct engagement during our visits, so I endorse some of the WCC’s recommendations, particularly for exchanges between North and South Korean citizens, cultural and academic exchange, and engagement.

However, I and many others are deeply concerned that the WCC’s statement and an accompanying report issued by the Asia secretary of the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council ignore the horrific human rights violations and the severe persecution of Christians, documented by the UN commission of inquiry report. Instead, the WCC’s statement calls on,

“all churches, church-related organizations and people of good will around the world”,

to resist,

“the confrontational misuse of human rights”,

avoid,

“the promotion of enemy images”,

and lift economic sanctions. The WCC describes North Korea as,

“a society that is visibly advancing, demonstrating great resilience and self-reliance despite the longstanding and recently strengthened international sanctions”.

In an article published on the Church of Scotland’s website, Sandy Sneddon describes visiting tourist and cultural sites in Pyongyang, including a Protestant church. My noble friend and I visited this Protestant church and three other churches in Pyongyang—another Protestant church, a Catholic church and a Russian Orthodox church. While we welcome their existence there, they are tightly controlled by the regime, and are widely believed to exist largely for the benefit of foreign visitors. In the rest of the country severe violations of freedom of religion or belief are well documented. The UN commission of inquiry concludes that,

“there is an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights to of freedom of opinion, expression, information and association”.

The regime, according to the UN inquiry,

“considers the spread of Christianity a particularly severe threat”,

and, as a result,

“Christians are prohibited from practising their religion and are persecuted”.

Severe punishments are inflicted on “people caught practising Christianity”.

The WCC report makes no reference to the UN inquiry. As my noble friend highlighted, it concluded that,

“the gravity, scale and nature”,

of the violations of human rights in North Korea,

“reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

It claims the systematic and widespread violations, described as “unspeakable atrocities”, are continuing,

“because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place”.

They amount, according to the inquiry, to,

“crimes against humanity in international law”,

and these crimes,

“clearly merit a criminal investigation”.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister for reassurance that the brutal violations of the rights and freedoms of people of DPRK, including freedom of religion and belief, will be at the centre of any engagement with Pyongyang by Her Majesty’s Government, alongside the priority concerns about the security situation.

2.41 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan (CB):

My Lords, like others, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for obtaining this debate on a country rarely discussed in this Chamber, but one which uniquely suffers from perhaps the most oppressive regime in the world. It is no accident, perhaps, that its godfathers were Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, who did so much to bring this state into existence in the 1950s.

More than 30 years ago, I worked as the head of the Asia department of Amnesty International and one of the most remarkable documents that we published then was the testimony of a Venezuelan communist, Ali Lameda, who had worked in Pyongyang as a translator and editor and found himself caught up in its Kafkaesque workings, and was arrested and tortured for many years.

Thankfully, in today’s world there are few countries where one can say the human rights position is little better now than it was decades ago. But if one reads the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the US State Department and the Foreign Office itself, it is clear that this is still the case in North Korea. In no significant manner is the human rights situation any better today than it was 30 years ago. That this is the case is abundantly clear from the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, referred to by several other noble Lords, and written by the Australian judge, Michael Kirby and the distinguished Indonesian lawyer, Marzuki Darusman, and published in February 2014. It reports:

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world”.

For decades, it argues, North Korea has committed,

“crimes that shock the conscience of humanity”,

which,

“raises questions about the inadequacy of the response of the international community”.

The international community must accept responsibility to protect the people of North Korea. This responsibility is a heavy one for the UK as we are one of only five countries that are permanent members of the Security Council. In that regard, can the Minister assure us that in our dialogue with China, enhanced by the state visit of President Xi Jinping last year, there are regular discussions about North Korea with Beijing? It must, and should, be part of our dialogue with China, the single most important country in terms of influence on North Korea. We also sit on the 47-member UN Human Rights Council, together with China. Can the Minister assure us that we will continue to use that forum to follow up the excellent work undertaken by Judge Kirby and Marzuki Darusman? As Michael Kirby himself stated:

“If the Human Rights Council is not the place to speak up about the atrocities … then where is the venue?”.

He went on to argue that the crimes against humanity were of such gravity that a case should in his judgment be taken to the International Criminal Court. Can the Minister tell us whether this has been considered with like-minded partners in the international community?

As the register of interests makes clear, I am a trustee of the BBC with a special interest in the World Service, where, indeed, I worked for seven years. In September 2015, the director-general, Tony Hall, declared that the BBC wished to reach out to ordinary Koreans through a new daily news programme via shortwave radio. The director-general wrote about this to the Chancellor on January 5 this year, outlining plans for a Korean service, among other World Service projects. There will also be an online presence. I am delighted that in a letter on 8 January, the Chancellor, George Osborne, agreed to provide £85 million of new funding for the World Service through a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In due course, a proposal to establish a Korean service will be placed before the Foreign Secretary, whose approval is needed for the launch of any new language services. Such funding from the Government is imperative for the establishment and continuation of the new service. Some will inevitably question its impact on North Korea, although I am sure that it will gain attention in South Korea as well as the diaspora. However, there is growing evidence that North Koreans, especially those who have worked and lived in China—and hundreds of thousands have—have access to devices that would enable access.

The regime itself has recently allowed the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, as well as Associated Press, to open news bureaux in North Korea. In due course I look forward to a BBC Korean service making its contribution to the improvement of human rights and security on the Korean peninsula that we all wish to see.

2.47 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab):

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for initiating today’s debate and enabling us to focus on a country with probably the worst human rights situation in the world, with summary executions, arbitrary detentions, abductions and disappearances—a country where the tools of the state include forced labour, prison camps, torture and rape. Such flagrant human rights violations cannot go unchallenged.

Shortly after it detonated its fourth nuclear test, North Korean state media issued a lengthy statement justifying the explosion. Their primary grievances justifying it was the 2014 UN commission of inquiry report that accused the regime of grave, systematic human rights abuses against its own people. In the opinion of the North Korean leadership, the United Nations report was nothing more than a,

“conspiratorial human rights racket against the DPRK”—

the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The official North Korean rebuttal ran to 50,000 words and claimed that the,

“popular masses enjoy genuine human rights”,

and accused the West of pursuing a “false and reactionary” agenda designed to interfere with national sovereignty.

The DPRK has always been extremely sensitive about its human rights record. The fact that it focused on this issue, after such a significant military provocation, shows how central the issues have become to its battle against the world. It may be that, by bringing the diplomatic spotlight back on to itself, North Korea is hoping to prompt the international community, particularly the US, to negotiate. I have no doubt that it would like to see an end to the state of war and international sanctions, which, whether or not it admits it publicly, have led to huge deprivation and extreme poverty in the country.

The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, quickly issued a Statement strongly condemning the nuclear test as,

“a grave breach of UN Security Council resolutions”.

Of course, as we have heard, the UN Security Council’s swift condemnation following its emergency meeting on 6 January indicated that there should be a robust response, including immediate work on “further significant measures” in a new Security Council resolution. I ask the Minister: what does she believe those “significant measures” should be, and when does she expect the new resolution to be considered?

The Foreign Secretary has also called for concrete action by the DPRK to improve human rights. Last November, Fiona Bruce asked in a Written Question in the other place whether he would request information from the DPRK on the measures it has taken to meet the recommendations of the UN report. The Written Answer referred to a meeting last October in the United Nations and stated:

“We were informed the accepted recommendations were being discussed by the relevant domestic DPRK institutions”.

Has there been any further contact on the need for implementation plans to be shared with the world community?

Peter Wilson, the UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, said in the Security Council in December:

“The United Kingdom fully supports the call for the Council to consider how it can best ensure accountability”,

of this regime, which of course is so important,

“including through considering a referral to the International Criminal Court”.

In answering a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on this issue, the Minister said that the United Kingdom,

“worked with the EU and Japan to co-author a UN resolution on the human rights situation in the DPRK which calls for accountability”.

What further progress has been made on achieving strong support for this resolution?

With South Korea assuming the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 1 January, there is a chance that this could seriously raise tensions on the peninsula. If South Korea leads a global coalition in referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court, I have no doubt that that would be interpreted by the regime as an act of provocation. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, reminded us, the two countries have been technically in a state of war since 1950 to 1953. The point of raising this is that whatever the tensions and provocations, they must not stop us raising the horrendous violations of human rights in North Korea.

2.53 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con):

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, for calling this important debate and raising these serious issues relating to the DPRK. I, along with fellow Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DfID, appreciate the invaluable work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, of which he is a co-chair. There is a long-standing interest in North Korea, across a broad range of serious and challenging issues, which has informed today’s debate.

As noble Lords have pointed out, it is only a fortnight ago that we saw the regime’s flagrant disregard of multiple UN Security Council resolutions by conducting a fourth nuclear test. It would be inappropriate to go into the technical detail of our assessment of the capabilities of the DPRK’s military position with regard to its current and potential future development but clearly it is something we watch very carefully. Although the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others referred to the thermonuclear test, we ought to take into account the fact that North Korea also continues to develop its ballistic missile programme—also in contravention of UN sanctions. We know that it has launched missiles from submarines as recently as last year. That is something that we have to consider always.

With regard to the thermonuclear test, the UK responded swiftly and decisively to condemn this serious violation. The Foreign Secretary spoke to his counterparts in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing and called for a robust and united international response. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, who raised these matters—absolutely rightly—that we are working within the United Nations Security Council and the EU to deliver this response, which will include a resolution on further significant measures. He asked me for a timetable. I am afraid I am not able to say when that will be achieved but technical work is under way to look at what further sanctions may be imposed that will be significant and effective. We will consider the full range of options open to us during negotiations on those new sanctions measures.

The United Kingdom has also expressed our concern directly with the North Korean regime. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. My right honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire, summoned the North Korean ambassador to the Foreign Office on 7 January. My right honourable friend further condemned the test and made it clear that North Korea had a choice: to reform its approach or risk facing further international isolation and sanctions. He added that amid reports of widespread hardship and human rights abuses, the priority must be the health and welfare of the North Korean people rather than the nuclear programme.

Of course, China remains vital to resolving issues related to North Korea and the Korean Peninsula. I was pleased to hear noble Lords concentrating on the importance of China’s role. The Foreign Secretary made it clear on his recent visit to China, as did the Prime Minister when he met President Xi on his recent state visit to the UK, that we share the same goals of security on the Korean Peninsula and respect for United Nations resolutions, and that we fully understand the role of China and the importance of its influence. China, like the UK, does not want a nuclear-armed North Korea. As a P5 member, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, China has a vital role to play in the implementation of UN sanctions, and we continue to work closely with it on this. We consistently engage with China on DPRK issues, including nuclear and human rights, across the board. That involves specifically the enforcement of sanctions.

As set out in the strategic defence and security review last year, the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent remains essential to our security today and for as long as the global security situation demands. History shows us that threats can emerge without notice but the tools for defending ourselves cannot be built overnight, so the Government will not gamble with the security of future generations of British people. We judge that a minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent, based on continuous at-sea deterrence and assigned to the defence of NATO, remains vital to our national security to ensure that the UK is protected from extreme threats that cannot be countered in any other way.

Turning to the critical issue of human rights, we remain concerned by the continuing reports of widespread and systematic state-sanctioned human rights violations in North Korea. The regime’s actions, its lack of international engagement on human rights and its rejection of the United Nations commission of inquiry report remain of deep concern. As the Foreign Office Minister for human rights, I am indeed engaged in seeing what negotiations can take place with our like-minded partners. I was asked about this by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan. It is important that we use the range of expertise and influence at the Human Rights Council as well as at the United Nations to be able to exert influence on international views of the DPRK.

Comments by the UN special rapporteur on forced expatriate labour, if accurate, appear to provide further evidence of North Korea’s lack of respect for international norms. It is important that any country around the world that is hosting North Korean workers should respect the rights of those workers. We continue to press the regime to make tangible progress on its absolutely appalling human rights record, including in the meeting that Hugo Swire had in December with senior visiting North Korean diplomats.

It is only a few weeks ago that the UN Security Council met to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea. So while we consider security as part of this debate today, crucially, we must never ever lose sight of the fact that the regime’s appalling approach to human rights denies ordinary North Koreans the rights that we, and many others across the globe, demand for ourselves. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, outlined a critical issue: it is vital that people should have the right for freedom of religion or belief. Indeed, the constitution of North Korea makes provision for it. It is about time that it took note of its own constitution.

What action are the British Government taking? We work hard in international fora to press for action that addresses North Korea’s serious human rights violations. We play a vital role through our policy of critical engagement. The British embassy in Pyongyang works to ensure that the regime is not oblivious to the condemnation of its approach to security and human rights. Our ambassador and embassy staff consistently raise human rights with the North Korean authorities, including freedom of religion or belief, and encourage their Government to implement all the recommendations of the UN’s universal periodic review. This work is valued by many of our allies, who may of course not have based an embassy within Pyongyang or North Korea and, as I told the current British ambassador before he assumed his duties recently, it is important that this engagement continues. The embassy also runs a series of projects where we engage with ordinary North Koreans. For many, this is their first encounter with a non-Korean and it is an opportunity to showcase our own values.

I was particularly asked about spending. On Monday, I launched the new Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy, in which we have doubled the FCO’s democracy fund money for this year to more than £10 million. That funding is available for bids from NGOs and others who work within North Korea but there is a much broader range of spending from government than just that fund. We have a programme spend which has covered humanitarian projects aimed at improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in North Korea, including helping to improve food and nutrition for people in rural areas, the funding of equipment for disabled people and support for children affected by the recent floods in Rajin. Many of our projects are about encouraging change.

My noble friend Lady Berridge asked about the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In fact, I happened to meet its board yesterday as part of our regular engagement. I will make sure that it takes note of our debate today but it is not for me to tell it what to do. That is not the role of government, but I will invite it to take note of what Parliament wishes it to do. Although DfID does not have a bilateral aid programme with North Korea, its programmes are based on the fact that we can give contributions to multilateral agencies that are working in-country.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, asked about two consular cases. We are indeed aware of the media reports regarding US and Canadian nationals. The British embassy in Pyongyang has been in close contact with the Swedish embassy and we remain in that contact because Sweden has consular responsibility. That does not mean to say that we do not take an interest—we do.

With regard to engaging North Korean refugees, which was another question from my noble friend Lady Berridge, the British embassy in Seoul also works towards improving the future prospects of the North Korean refugee community in the Republic of Korea through its English for the Future programme. We also engage with the North Korean refugee community in the UK to share information and listen to their views on our policy towards North Korea, so that we may better address the very issues that my noble friend outlined about the needs of refugees.

I was asked particularly about the BBC World Service, which remains the world’s largest international broadcaster. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has discussed proposals for a range of new World Service programming, including for the DPRK, and he will make a decision on whether to support additional services on the basis of any formal request from the BBC Trust. I am not in a position to give a date about when that may happen but when a formal request comes forward, he will make that decision.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the most important issue—there should be no impunity for crimes such as serious human rights violations. It is not only Governments who have responsibility for this. NGOs take on that responsibility, too, and I pay tribute to the human rights defenders around the world, including those in North Korea, who carry out their work in very dangerous conditions. It is a long battle ahead for us all to achieve conditions of humanity in North Korea. We will not give up, and I know that the British public and this Parliament will not give up.

 

Link to the video recording of the debate: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/cd229335-c0cc-4bfc-af80-94422a5275ee?in=14:08:40&out=15:06:00

Also see:

http://davidalton.net/2014/07/24/british-parliament-debates-the-united-nations-commission-of-inquiry-report-into-crimes-against-humanity-in-north-korea/

http://davidalton.net/2014/05/02/susie-younger-and-koreas-never-ending-flower/

North Korea's GulagsThe unprecedented publication of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report calling for the prosecution of North Korea’s leaders for crimes against humanity.

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House of Commons Motion tabled January 27th 2016

1012    UN AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA                                                        26:1:16

 

Fiona Bruce

1

That this House notes the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 22 January 2016; welcomes his call for the international community to further all efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country; concurs with his recommendation that, in addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership; further notes with regret his observation that not much has changed in the country almost two years after the report of the Commission of Inquiry; recalls that the second anniversary of the publication of the UN Commission of Inquiry will be on 22 February 2016; notes the resolution passed by the European Parliament on 21 January 2016 and the debate held in the House of Lords the same day; and urges the Government to pursue all avenues for addressing and improving the human rights situation in the DPRK and holding the perpetrators of crimes against humanity accountable.

 

 

MS Breakthrough: Adult Stem Cells – not human embryos – hold the key to the great breakthroughs in science. Good ethics and good science must march hand in hand:http://davidalton.net/?s=adult+stem+cells

Adult Stem Cells – not human embryos – hold the key to the great breakthroughs in science. Good ethics and good science must march hand in hand:

 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12104774/Miraculous-results-from-new-MS-treatment.html

http://davidalton.net/?s=adult+stem+cells

 

 

January 2016 – “Don’t Screen Us Out” – NHS Trust “apologises unreservedly” and puts new protocols in place after the issuing of Non Resuscitation Orders to patients with Down’s Syndrome. Also see “Fatwa issued by ISIS” on people with Down’s; a mother’s moving response; Archbishop Charles Chaput on Down’s Syndrome; Minsterial replies on December 22nd

 

See:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/12103340/Downs-Syndrome-people-risk-extinction-at-the-hands-of-science-fear-and-ignorance.html

DOWN SYNDROME ADVOCATES LAUNCH ‘DON’T SCREEN US OUT’ CAMPAIGN URGING GOVERNMENT TO HALT NEW SCREENING PROPOSAL

The number of babies with Down Syndrome aborted is set to to increase following a decision released this morning.

UK Down’s syndrome advocates have today launched the new campaign, Don’t Screen Us Out, after the National Screening Council (UKNSC) released its decision today to recommend the implementation of a non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technique called ‘cell-free DNA’ (cfDNA), which may lead to a profound reduction in the number of children born with Down’s syndrome.

Spokeswoman for the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, Lynn Murray said:

While the screening itself is being heralded as a move to reduce the number of miscarriages associated with invasive amniocentesis, the UKNSC have glossed over the fact that their pilot study predicts cfDNA screening will detect 102 more babies with Down’s syndrome every year. Latest figures tell us that 90% of babies who are prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome are aborted. If we are to apply this percentage to these newly detected babies, this would mean an increase of 92 abortions for babies with Down’s syndrome annually and an overall decline of reported Down’s syndrome live births by 13%. Such an outcome is likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the Down’s syndrome community”.

The Don’t Screen Us Out campaign calls on the government to halt the implementation of cfDNA screening and to introduce reforms which would support those with Down’s syndrome and their families.

The release of the decision coincides with the recent release of a UN report from the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) of the United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) issuing a stern warning about the drive to adopt NIPT in national screening programmes, “the potential ethical disadvantages of NIPT can be summarised as routinisation and institutionalisation of the choice of not giving birth to an ill or disabled child”.

The Governmental enabling of such an approach, also violates the UK’s treaty obligations to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to make sure that its health policies – including antenatal screening – are informed by and reflective of a ‘social model’ understanding of disability. As indeed does the haphazard medical support for parents whose child is diagnosed with fetal disability, which leads to pressure on parents to abort their babies with disabilities such as trisomy 21 and causes the conditions that drive the low proportion of Down’s syndrome births. This constitutes a failure to implement section 23, subsection 3 of the CRPD for early and comprehensive support to families with children who have Down syndrome.

Mrs. Murray explains: “Greater support is necessary for parents who are expecting a child with Down’s syndrome. For example, there is a lack of clarity in communicating the diagnosis or prognosis of fetal disability, and the presumption from many medical professionals that parents would opt for abortion. This is worsened by the fact that there is also limited information and support for the option of raising a baby with Down’s syndrome“.

The cfDNA test should not be implemented into the UK Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme at this stage. Given the state of the medical system as it currently exists, cfDNA may only worsen the culture of informally eugenic anti-disabled discrimination that exists in our screening programme health services.

Don’t Screen Us Out are urging members of the public to visit http://www.dontscreenusout.org and to use the site to contact their MP urging them to write to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, asking that the government halts the introduction of second-line cfDNA screening.

ENDS

Lynn Murray, Spokeswoman, Phone: (0044) 1313340133, Email: savingdowns@gmail.com.

For more information on Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, see our website http://www.dontscreenusout.org.

DavidAlton.net

January 12th 2016 – Response from the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust about the issuing of Do Not Resuscitate Orders to patients with Down’s Syndrome – and offers “an unreserved apology” and puts better protocols in place :

East kent1

East Kent2

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London Evening Standard reports on a fatwa issued against babies with Down’s Syndrome:

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/isis-issues-fatwa-ordering-suffocation-of-babies-with-down-s-syndrome-a3136651.html

See the full report below: 

So far, there have been 38 confirmed cases of babies who suffered from deformities being summarily executed. The preferred methods used by ISIS executioners are either lethal injection or suffocation. The victims range from one week to three months old.

Down’s woman speaks against search and destroy tests:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwxjoBQdn0s&sns=em

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And a mother’s response…

I think two important things stand out which have not been said.

People with Down’s syndrome are no longer passive individuals for whom things are done  or decided. They have their own dreams…

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